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An Interview with William J. Moore 


Interviewee: William J. Moore 
Interviewed: 1981 
Published: 1985 

Interviewer: Elizabeth Nelson Patrick 
UNOHP Catalog #132 


Description 

William J. Moore, Jr., was born in Lane City, Texas, on July 17,1913. Within the year his family moved to Oklahoma 
where Moore was educated. Voted most likely to succeed by his classmates, he was graduated from Oklahoma A 
& M with a degree in architecture. 

The young architect was more fortunate than many graduates during the Great Depression. While still attending 
school he had become associated with his uncles in the theater business. The Griffith brothers operated a large 
theater chain in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri and New Mexico, and Moore became their architect and 
builder. This experience and his training in architecture prepared him well for the leading role he was to play in 
the development of Las Vegas’s second gaming district along the old Los Angeles highway, the now-famous Strip. 

Moore and his uncle, R. E. Griffith, headed for Los Angeles in early 1941. There they heard good things about the 
development of tourism in Las Vegas, Nevada. They decided to stop in southern Nevada to see for themselves. Moore 
remembered, “We came to Las Vegas and found that the opportunities were fabulous.” Griffith bought property 
for development on the old Los Angeles highway just south of the Las Vegas townsite. Moore and his colleague, 
Jack Corgan, did final drawings for the hotel in Dallas and then, in December 1941, Moore moved to Las Vegas to 
supervise construction of the Last Frontier Hotel. 

December 10,1942 marked the grand opening of the Last Frontier hotel on what was to become Fas Vegas’s second 
gaming district, the Strip. A few months earlier the El Rancho Hotel had been built on the highway by Tommy 
Hull, and many people thought the choice of a location so far out of town was foolhardy and doomed the hotel to 
failure. Thus, the establishment of the Fast Frontier was Moore’s and Griffith’s vote of confidence in the El Rancho’s 
location and in the economy of the community. 

During World War II procuring building materials for non-essential building was not easy. The challenge only 
sharpened Moore’s powers of imagination and innovation. In desperate need of wiring and conduit, he purchased 
a Pioche mine and salvaged all its wiring, conduit and switches for use in the Fast Frontier. To ensure a supply of 
meat and dairy products for the hotel’s dining room, he purchased two Moapa ranches and stocked them with prize 
beef and dairy herds. 

Moore was a promoter. To attract Californians he instituted junkets, first by bus and then by plane. Rodeos and 
roping contests were regular Sunday afternoon events for visitors and locals. Through contacts he had made with 
the theater chain, he was able to bring Hollywood and entertainment personalities to the stage of the Ramona 
Room. Probably Moore’s most successful promotion was the creation of the Fast Frontier Village, a collection of 
old buildings salvaged from Nevada and California and some replicas of Old West buildings. 


(Continued on next page.) 


Description (continued) 


The grand opening of the Last Frontier honored officers from the Nellis Air Force gunnery school and military 
camps in California and Arizona, and funds were raised to benefit army recreation centers and camps. Moore was 
twice elected president of the Chamber of Commerce. His reputation for honesty and integrity made it possible for 
Governor Vail Pittman to appoint him to the Nevada State Tax Commission despite Moores personal involvement 
in the gaming industry. He set high standards for the industry and was influential in developing state gaming rules 
and procedures. In 1955 he was a principal witness in the Kefauver Crime Commission hearings in Las Vegas. 

After the sale of the Last Frontier in 1951, Moore and his business associates developed the El Cortez and Showboat 
hotel-casinos. He also invested in real estate and oil, and he helped develop the potato industry in Winnemucca. 


An Interview with William J. Moore 




An Interview with William J. Moore 


This oral history was made possible in part by gifts from: 
B. Mahlon Brown, John F. Cahlan, Artemus W. Ham, Jr., 
Frances M. Moore and Tona C. Siefert 


An Oral History Conducted by Elizabeth Nelson Patrick 
August 29,1981 


University of Nevada Oral History Program 


Copyright 1985 

University of Nevada Oral History Program 
Mail Stop 0324 
Reno, Nevada 89557 
unohp @unr. edu 
http: / / www. unr. edu/ oralhistory 


All rights reserved. Published 1985. 
Printed in the United States of America 


Publication Staff: 
Director: R.T. King 


University of Nevada Oral History Program Use Policy 

All UNOHP interviews are copyrighted materials. They may be downloaded and/or 
printed for personal reference and educational use, but not republished or sold. Under 
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cited. The citation should include the title of the work, the name of the person or 
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was published or produced by the University of Nevada Oral History Program (and 
collaborating institutions, when applicable). Requests for permission to quote for other 
publication, or to use any photos found within the transcripts, should be addressed 
to the UNOHP, Mail Stop 0324, University of Nevada, Reno, Reno, NV 89557-0324. 
Original recordings of most UNOHP interviews are available for research purposes 
upon request. 



Contents 

Preface to the Digital Edition ix 

Original Preface xi 

Introduction xiii 

An Interview with William J. Moore 1 

Notes 47 

Photographs 49 

Original Index: For Reference Only 53 




Preface to the Digital Edition 


Established in 1964, the University of 
Nevada Oral History Program (UNOHP) 
explores the remembered past through 
rigorous oral history interviewing, creating a 
record for present and future researchers. The 
programs collection of primary source oral 
histories is an important body of information 
about significant events, people, places, 
and activities in twentieth and twenty-first 
century Nevada and the West. 

The UNOHP wishes to make the 
information in its oral histories accessible 
to a broad range of patrons. To achieve 
this goal, its transcripts must speak with 
an intelligible voice. However, no type font 
contains symbols for physical gestures and 
vocal modulations which are integral parts 
of verbal communication. When human 
speech is represented in print, stripped of 
these signals, the result can be a morass of 
seemingly tangled syntax and incomplete 
sentences—totally verbatim transcripts 
sometimes verge on incoherence. Therefore, 
this transcript has been lightly edited. 


While taking great pains not to alter 
meaning in any way, the editor may have 
removed false starts, redundancies, and the 
“uhs,” “ahs,” and other noises with which 
speech is often liberally sprinkled; compressed 
some passages which, in unaltered form, 
misrepresent the chroniclers meaning; and 
relocated some material to place information 
in its intended context. Laughter is represented 
with [laughter] at the end of a sentence in 
which it occurs, and ellipses are used to 
indicate that a statement has been interrupted 
or is incomplete.. .or that there is a pause for 
dramatic effect. 

As with all of our oral histories, while 
we can vouch for the authenticity of the 
interviews in the UNOHP collection, we 
advise readers to keep in mind that these are 
remembered pasts, and we do not claim that 
the recollections are entirely free of error. 
We can state, however, that the transcripts 
accurately reflect the oral history recordings 
on which they were based. Accordingly, each 
transcript should be approached with the 



X 


William J. Moore 


same prudence that the intelligent reader 
exercises when consulting government 
records, newspaper accounts, diaries, and 
other sources of historical information. 
All statements made here constitute the 
remembrance or opinions of the individuals 
who were interviewed, and not the opinions 
of the UNOHP. 

In order to standardize the design of all 
UNOHP transcripts for the online database, 
most have been reformatted, a process that 
was completed in 2012. This document may 
therefore differ in appearance and pagination 
from earlier printed versions. Rather than 
compile entirely new indexes for each volume, 
the UNOHP has made each transcript fully 
searchable electronically. If a previous version 
of this volume existed, its original index has 
been appended to this document for reference 
only. A link to the entire catalog can be found 
online at http://oralhistory.unr.edu/. 

For more information on the UNOHP 
or any of its publications, please contact the 
University of Nevada Oral History Program at 
Mail Stop 0324, University of Nevada, Reno, 
NV, 89557-0324 or by calling 775/784-6932. 

Alicia Barber 
Director, UNOHP 
July 2012 



Original Preface 


The University of Nevada Oral History 
Program (OHP) engages in systematic 
interviewing of persons who can provide 
firsthand descriptions of events, people and 
places that give history its substance. The 
products of this research are the tapes of the 
interviews and their transcriptions. 

In themselves, oral history interviews 
are not history. However, they often contain 
valuable primary source material, as useful in 
the process of historiographical synthesization 
as the written sources to which historians have 
customarily turned. Verifying the accuracy of 
all of the statements made in the course of an 
interview would require more time and money 
than the OHP s operating budget permits. The 
program can vouch that the statements were 
made, but it cannot attest that they are free 
of error. Accordingly, oral histories should 
be read with the same prudence that the 
reader exercises when consulting government 
records, newspaper accounts, diaries and 
other sources of historical information. 

It is the policy of the OHP to produce 
transcripts that are as close to verbatim 


as possible, but some alteration of the 
text is generally both unavoidable and 
desirable. When human speech is captured 
in print the result can be a morass of tangled 
syntax, false starts and incomplete sentences, 
sometimes verging on incoherency. The type 
font contains no symbols for the physical 
gestures and the diverse vocal modulations 
that are integral parts of communication 
through speech. Experience shows that 
totally verbatim transcripts are often totally 
unreadable and therefore a total waste of 
the resources expended in their production. 
While keeping alterations to a minimum the 
OHP will, in preparing a text: 

a. generally delete false starts, redundancies 
and the uhs, ahs and other noises with which 
speech is often liberally sprinkled; 

b. occasionally compress language that 
would be confusing to the reader in unaltered 
form; 

c. rarely shift a portion of a transcript to 
place it in its proper context; and 

d. enclose in [brackets] explanatory 
information or words that were not uttered 



William J. Moore 


xii 


but have been added to render the text 
intelligible. 

There will be readers who prefer to take 
their oral history straight, without even 
the minimal editing that occurred in the 
production of this text; they are directed to 
the tape recording. 

Copies of all or part of this work and the 
tape recording from which it is derived are 
available from: 

The University of Nevada 
Oral History Program 
Mailstop 0324 

University of Nevada, Reno 89557 
(775) 784-6932 



Introduction 


William J. Moore, Jr., was born in Lane 
City, Texas, 17 July 1913. Within the year his 
family moved to Oklahoma where Moore was 
educated. Voted most likely to succeed by his 
classmates, he was graduated from Oklahoma 
A & M (now Oklahoma State University) with 
a degree in architecture. 

The young architect was more fortunate 
than many graduates during the Great 
Depression. While still attending school he 
had become associated with his uncles in 
the theater business. The Griffith brothers 
operated a large theater chain in Oklahoma, 
Texas, Arkansas, Missouri and New Mexico, 
and upon graduation Moore became their 
architect and builder. His theater business 
experience and training in architecture 
prepared him well for the leading role he 
was to play in the development of Las Vegas’s 
second gaming district along the old Los 
Angeles highway, the now-famous Strip. 

When William Moore and his uncle R. E. 
Griffith headed for Los Angeles in early 1941, 
their main concern was development of a large 
hotel and theater in Deming, New Mexico. 


In Los Angeles Moore and Griffith heard 
some good things about the development of 
tourism in Las Vegas, Nevada. On their way 
back to corporate headquarters in Dallas 
they decided to stop over in southern Nevada 
to see for themselves. Moore remembered, 
“We came to Las Vegas and found that the 
opportunities were fabulous.” 

Plans for the Deming project were 
dropped immediately, and Griffith bought 
property for development on the old Los 
Angeles highway just south of the Las Vegas 
townsite. Moore and his colleague Jack 
Corgan did final drawings for the hotel in 
Dallas and then, in December 1941, Moore 
moved to Las Vegas to supervise construction 
of the hotel. 

An important day for Las Vegas was 10 
December 1942. It marked the grand opening 
of the Last Frontier Hotel on what was to 
become Las Vegas’s second gaming district, 
the Strip. It is rare that being second is as 
important as being first in any endeavor, but 
such was the case for the Last Frontier Hotel. 
A few months earlier the El Rancho Hotel had 



XIV 


William J. Moore 


been built on the highway by Tommy Hull, 
and many town folk thought the choice of a 
location so far out of town was nothing but 
foolhardy and doomed the hotel to failure. 
Thus the establishment of the Last Frontier 
on the highway was William J. Moores and 
R. E. Griffith’s vote of confidence in the El 
Ranchos location and in the economy of the 
community, and it demonstrated their faith 
in the national purpose. 

The country was engaged in a two-front 
war, and procuring building materials for 
non-essential building was not easy. The 
challenge only sharpened Moore’s powers of 
imagination and innovation. At one point, 
in desperate need of wiring and conduit, he 
purchased a Pioche mine and salvaged all its 
wiring, conduit and switches for use in the 
Last Frontier. To ensure a supply of meat and 
dairy products for the hotel’s dining room, he 
purchased two Moapa ranches and stocked 
them with prize beef and dairy herds. 

Moore was a promoter. To attract 
Californians he instituted junkets, first by 
bus and then by plane. Rodeos and roping 
contests were regular Sunday afternoon events 
for visitors and local people alike. Through 
contacts he had made with the theater 
chain, he was able to bring Hollywood and 
entertainment personalities to the stage of 
the Ramona Room. Probably Moore’s most 
successful promotion was the creation of 
the Last Frontier Village, a collection of old 
buildings Doby Doc (Robert Caudill) had 
gathered from around Nevada and California 
and some replicas of Old West buildings. 
Melodramas were presented in the Bird Cage 
Theater. 

The grand opening of the Last Frontier 
honored officers from the local gunnery 
school and other neighboring military camps 
in California and Arizona, and funds were 
raised to benefit army recreation centers and 


camps. The affair was typical of Moore’s interest 
in community life. He was twice elected 
president of the Chamber of Commerce. His 
reputation for honesty and integrity made it 
possible for Governor Vail Pittman to appoint 
him to the State Tax Commission despite 
Moore’s personal involvement in the gaming 
industry at the time. On the Tax Commission 
he set high standards for the industry and was 
influential in developing state gaming rules 
and procedures. In 1955 he was principal 
witness in the Kefauver Crime Commission 
hearings in Las Vegas. 

After the sale of the Last Frontier in 
1951, Moore and other business associates 
developed the El Cortez and Showboat hotel- 
casinos. Additionally, he invested in real estate 
and oil. Winnemucca potato farmers can 
thank him for developing their industry. 

It was a lucky day, that day back in 1941, 
when Bill Moore decided that there was 
some future for him in Las Vegas—lucky for 
Moore and for the town. Perhaps journalist 
and historian Florence Lee Cahlan put it 
best when she said of Bill Moore, “His was 
one of the most lively minds I have ever 
encountered. He did more for this town than 
anyone I know. On a personal level, he [was] 
a dedicated husband and father. 

William Moore was a cooperative and 
enthusiastic informant even though at the 
time of his interviews he was terminally ill. 
This transcription represents about four and 
one-half hours of taping. The first session on 
5 May 1981 ended prematurely when Moore 
became too exhausted to continue. It was 
thought that he might not be able to finish 
the tapings. A second session took place on 
29 August 1981. This collector remembers 
with great pleasure how Bill Moore “got on 
a roll” that day. After we had gone through 
the two cassettes I had brought with me, I 
apologized because I could not continue the 



Introduction 


xv 


interview for lack of another cassette. I had 
not expected that he would be able to tape 
for more than two hours! I shall never forget 
how he bounded out of his chair and searched 
for one of his own blank cassettes so that we 
could continue a reminiscence we both found 
stimulating. 

The interviews explore Moore’s business 
experience in gaming and hotel management 
and his community involvement and 
dedication. They document his role as a 
mover and a shaker in the pre-corporate 
development of Las Vegas gaming. This oral 
history is part of a series of oral histories, 
Pioneer Tapes, taped by Elizabeth Nelson 
Patrick and funded by a grant from the 
Nevada Humanities Committee. The original 
tapes are on deposit in the Special Collections 
Department, Dickinson Library, University of 
Nevada, Las Vegas. 

William J. Moore, Jr., died on 4 June 1982. 
After his death his widow, Patricia, and their 
three children deposited photographs, maps, 
architectural drawings (among them original 
plans of the Last Frontier Hotel) memorabilia 
and a scrapbook in the Special Collections 
Department of the University of Nevada, Las 
Vegas. 

Elizabeth Nelson Patrick 
Special Collections Department 
Dickinson Library 
University bf Nevada Las Vegas 





William J. Moore 
1945 









An Interview with 
William J. Moore 


William Moore: I was born in Lane City, 
Texas, but I was educated in what then was 
Oklahoma A & M, which is now Oklahoma 
State University, as an architect. 

Elizabeth Nelson Patrick: How did that get you 
to Las Vegas? 

I was commissioned to design and build 
the Hotel Last Frontier in Las Vegas by R. B. 
Griffith, who was my uncle and the principal 
in a theater chain in Oklahoma, Texas, New 
Mexico, Arkansas. 

Did you work for that chain? 

As an architect. 

How did you know about Las Vegas? The Strip 
did not exist at that time. How did you become 
involved here? 

Well, Mr. Griffith owned a hotel in Gallup, 
New Mexico, called the Hotel El Rancho, 
which I had been partially involved in along 


with an architect out of Dallas by the name 
of Dilbeck. Mr. Griffith wanted to build an 
additional hotel—having in mind a chain of 
hotels—and asked me to meet him and go 
with him to Deming, New Mexico. Deming 
was on a national, well-traveled highway 
[and] had during the First World War some 
hundred thousand troops at all times as a 
port of embarcation. And the reason for him 
knowing about Deming is that, at one time, 
there had been approximately 30 theaters in 
the town. 

I know Deming now, and that surprises me. I 
didn’t realize that. 

Many of the theaters still existed in 
buildings, and approximately 12 of them were 
still standing with all the original equipment. 
So he accomplished 2 things in Deming. Mr. 
Griffith wanted to commission me to make a 
deal with the people that owned the theaters 
and take the theaters over, as well as buy all 
the existing theaters and remodel same into 
store buildings, such that they would not be 



2 


William J. Moore 


converted into a theater structure. That, and 
the possible location of building another 
western-type hotel which would go in with a 
chain of hotels he intended to name Hotel El 
Rancho. We went to Deming; made the deal 
with the theater people. 

In the meantime I’d heard about the 
activity and possible future activity in Las 
Vegas, Nevada, it being further west and on 
cross-country highways with the gambling 
as an added inducement. We later went to 
Los Angeles, talked with various and sundry 
suppliers—for the possible construction in 
Deming of the theaters—and the hotel people 
concerning the opportunities in Las Vegas. 
The recommendation was real strong on Las 
Vegas. In the opinion of the hotel people, 
[it] was far superior for a hotel location than 
Deming, New Mexico. 

Now the comparison is laughable, isn’t it? 
[laughter] 

Yes, it is. At that particular time we 
came to Las Vegas, examined the various 
opportunities on the purchase of property, 
found that Mr. [Tom] Hull of the Hull hotel 
chain had, prior to us arriving, constructed 
and opened a hotel under the name of the 
Hotel El Rancho. Our reservation for our stay 
in Las Vegas had been made by the Hull hotel 
people in the El Rancho out of the Roosevelt 
Hotel in Los Angeles. 

We came to Las Vegas and found that the 
opportunities were fabulous. It did present 
a problem in that the opportunities, we 
felt, were quite some time in the future, as 
they would have been also in Deming, New 
Mexico. And the hotel that Mr. Hull had 
opened under the name of Hotel El Rancho 
was of a western-type design; while not 
exactly similar to designs that Griffith had 
in mind, they interfered with his planned 


method of promotion. He couldn’t use the 
name El Rancho. So the name [Last Frontier] 
was thought up by Mr. Griffith, and he also 
came up with a slogan which we always 
thought a very good one: The Early West in 
Modern Splendor. 

We had to bear in mind that a lot of 
promotion was going to have to be done, 
which we were familiar with because of the 
theater operation. Even as a youngster I ran 
numerous promotions for the theater chain, 
because my mother, being a Griffith originally, 
was operating the theaters that were owned 
by she and her brother in the town of Fairfax, 
Oklahoma. 

During the time I was going to school, [on] 
numerous occasions the Griffiths, recognizing 
my promotional ability, had commissioned me 
to design and build theaters even though I did 
not have, at that time, a license. The only way 
that it could be done was through a registered 
architect, which I would commission myself 
and work through. Here’s an illustration: I 
built a theater in Seminole, Oklahoma, in 
approximately 30 days... 750 seat theater. 
The night that the theater opened, due to 
an unfortunate happening in the projection 
booth, the theater caught fire and burned to the 
ground. So they commissioned me to rebuild 
the thing, and we did so in approximately 3 
days sooner than we had originally built the 
other, even in spite of the fact that we had 
to tear out the old rubble of the theater and 
reconstruct from the ground up. We did have 
the advantage of having the foundation that 
wasn’t damaged by the fire. 

So you were experienced in building by the 
time your uncle decided upon building the 
Last Frontier? 

I was. [I] built the theater in Hobbs, New 
Mexico; Wink, Texas—all of them oil field 



University of Nevada Oral History Program 


3 


boom towns, and all of them requiring a 
tremendous amount of promotion in order 
to build and complete and operate after they 
were constructed. 

Did Mr. Griffith finance this hotel from his own 
corporation, his own funds? 

Partially. But I would say at least a third of 
the money had to come from outside sources. 

Now, you said there were other brothers with 
R. E. [Griffith]. Who were they? 

H. J., or Henry, Griffith and Louis, or L. 
C., Griffith were the other 2 brothers. 

When did you start drawing plans for the 
hotel? You already had the conceptual idea, 
didn’t you? 

Yes. 

Did you come to Las Vegas to do that? 

No, the plans were drafted in Dallas, Texas, 
in an architectural office owned by myself and 
a fellow by the name of Jack Corgan. 

When did you come to Las Vegas? 

Came to Las Vegas to live in December of 
1941. 

Tell me about the Last Frontier. 

Well, the Last Frontier was conceived to 
be as near western as we could make it. We 
had a dining room, the major dining room, 
the show room. It was constructed of stone. 
The lobby had extremely high ceilings with 
the hreplace running right up through the 
middle of it—actually 2 hreplaces in the lobby, 


in the form of an octagon. The ceilings were 
of hewn timbers—logs—rough-sawed boards 
antiqued in such a way as to look many years 
old. And the whole structure was laid out on 
that basis. 

What was the shape of the building? 

The main building was in the form of a 
U. The part [with] the rooms was in the form 
of an old fort—in other words, completely 
enclosed on 4 sides with entrances under the 
second floor back into the center section, 
which was highly landscaped in a western- 
type character. There was an outside boiler 
room or machinery room that housed most of 
the major machinery for the operation. Other 
than house the boilers, it housed the major air 
conditioning equipment. We used cold water 
circulated in tunnels under the hotel to cool, 
with an individual unit in each room. 

That was very innovative, wasn’t it, to have 
refrigerated air conditioning at that time? 

Well, there wasn’t too much refrigeration 
around. It was innovative in as far as there 
were very few hotel rooms in the United 
States that had air conditioning. There were 
a few, but very few. Later, naturally, it became 
necessary due to climatic conditions; every 
hotel room had to have refrigerated air 
conditioning. 

Oh, yes. People from California just couldn’t 
stand the kind of weather we have in Las 
Vegas. That kind of air conditioning, though, 
was new enough that, when the hotel opened, 
Florence Lee Cahlan wrote an article and went 
into a great deal of description about the air 
conditioning. I know that it was considered 
really plush and the last thing. 

How many rooms were there in the hotel? 



4 


William J. Moore 


Originally we opened with 105. Later we 
added approximately 100 rooms. 

No more than that? I thought I had read 
someplace where they had planned for 170. 

We did, but we cut off one wing of an 
H, which then formed it into a U. There 
were approximately 100 rooms added, as I 
remember it: 70 rooms in the main section 
of the hotel and approximately 30 rooms in 
the form of another motel structure that was 
adjoining the power house. 

Well, in the same article I read that you were 
very innovative as far as fire protection was 
concerned. You had fire hoses every so many 
feet inside the building and also outside the 
building. 

This is true. Frankly, while we didn’t have 
sprinklers, we had no rooms higher than the 
third storey and only 3 on the third storey. 
Most of the rooms were not higher than 2 
storeys, and anybody could’ve jumped out of 
them without any harm to them physically. 
So the sprinklers were not really necessary to 
protect life and lint in the hotels. 

I read that there were parking spaces for 400 
cars. That was considered a lot of parking in 
those days, wasn’t it? 

At that particular time it was, yes. 

That was around the beginning of World War 
II; and since you were a motel-hotel really, a 
resort area, how did the war affect the hotel? 

Well, it affected [the hotel] in quite 
a number of ways. Number one, in the 
construction of the hotel. If you will remember, 
the government set up controls on building, 


and they had set up a control agency known as 
the War Production Board, which controlled 
the issuance of an establishment’s ability to 
purchase anything that was on a critical list 
which had been published by the government. 

That would include wiring, I suppose, and...? 

Includes wiring and plumbing...all 
building materials. Essentially it got into 
lumber, got into electrical materials for the 
electrical work, got into plumbing and pipe 
for the plumbing work. It got into fixtures. It 
got into all types of building materials, you 
might say, including down as far as carpets—it 
restricted the use of [such items] except in the 
case of one’s ability to show his connection to 
the war effort. Naturally, [in] the building of 
a hotel one could show a certain amount of 
ability to conform with the war effort in that 
you could house the military, and housing was 
necessary in this particular area due to Nellis 
Air Force Base [at the time known as the Las 
Vegas Army Air Field] . But again, we were 
up against one particular problem in that we 
could show no connection [to] helping out the 
war effort with anything to do with gambling. 

No direct support of the war. [laughter] 

That’s right. 

How did you get these supplies, then? 

Well, they exempted anybody that had 
started construction on such type of structure, 
providing they could prove that they had the 
material before the institution of the War 
Production [Board] . We were in position to 
prove that, except the government, during 
the war, had the power to go in on any 
construction and take the materials when they 
were needed in the construction of anything 



University of Nevada Oral History Program 


5 


to do with the military effort. They did come 
to us while we were under construction 
and asked us to prove the existence of these 
materials and so forth. We had no alternative 
but to prove it if we wanted to continue with 
construction. But naturally, in proving same it 
gave the government a list of everything that 
you had. So they came in on our construction 
job at the hotel and essentially grabbed all 
of the material we had having to do with 
anything electrical and took the material in 
trucks to the army air base at Nellis. This being 
the case, we were up against the problem of 
continuing the operation. Having no electrical 
material forced us to go to northern and 
eastern Nevada and purchase 2 mines in order 
that we could obtain the electrical material in 
the mines. 

So you just bought up the guts of a mine, 
literally? What did you do, send a crew up to 
the mines to get the materials out? 

We sent a crew up there to strip the 
material out of the mines: wiring, casing, pipe, 
major control switches, even small switches. 

Whose idea was that? 

Well, we had brought an electrician out of 
Gallup, New Mexico, to run the electrical end 
of this business. Naturally, this electrician had 
operated in and around Gallup for a number 
of years and had wired any number of these 
big mines. So when we went over the problem 
with him— the fact the government had 
taken all these supplies—he stated that all of 
the small supplies could be obtained in and 
around Gallup, but that the larger equipment, 
including the larger wiring and whatnot, 
could not be obtained. His suggestion was 
that if we could find a couple of underground 
operations where they had been forced to run 


electrical supply lines and so forth, that there 
would be enough major electrical equipment, 
including wire and conduit, that wouldn’t 
compare enough with the code that we could 
obtain the exemptions against the code and 
go ahead and be able to finish the operation. 

Well, it was a clever idea. Didn’t the War 
Production Board have the power to take those 
things, too? 

They could’ve if they had gotten a hold of 
it, but they had to get a hold of it and know 
you had it. That’s the reason we made the deal 
on the basis [that] no reporting of the sale 
would ever be made. 

You mean with the mines? So you just went 
merrily on your way wiring that hotel without 
the government’s knowing it? 

That’s right. They couldn’t stop the wiring, 
providing we had the wire. Well, we had the 
wire. 

I’ve seen pictures of the stonework in the 
Ramona Room, the front of the building and 
in that main foyer. It was beautiful. Where did 
it come from? 

The stone came from Red Rock Canyon, 
but the installation of same was made 
principally by Navajo Indians that we were 
able to bring in here from Gallup, New 
Mexico. 

Where did you get all those wagon wheels that 
were around the terrace? 

Well, a fellow by the name of Gibbs, was, 
you might say, a teamster in Las Vegas; [he] 
actually was in the business of plowing up 
land with horse-drawn equipment because 



6 


William J. Moore 


the horse could get into spots the big tractor 
couldn’t. He happened to have horses, and he 
didn’t own tractors. Over a period of years he 
had been in this business to the extent that he 
had wagons break down, and people would 
come to him wanting to sell him wheels and 
so forth. In view of the fact that there were 
so few people around that were interested 
in purchasing such stuff, he acquired most 
of this stuff very cheap. That be the case, he 
had an awful lot of equipment in the way of 
wagon wheels, horse-drawn harness— that is 
harness for horses on horse-drawn vehicles— 
and anything to do with a horse in the form 
of construction equipment. 

Through Gibbs we were able to purchase 
most of the wagon wheels and what. Some 
of the stuff we were able to purchase out 
of Gallup, due to Mr. Griffith having built 
a similar-type hotel in Gallup and making 
certain contacts there. But most of it came 
through Gibbs and was purchased in Las 
Vegas. 

From the pictures that I saw in Special 
Collections, there were quite a lot of wagon 
wheels there. How long were you in construction 
of the hotel? 

Oh, we started in December of 1941 and 
opened in the latter part of October 1942. Just 
about a year. 

There was one thing that interested me a lot. 
You planned to make it really a green place, 
didn’t you? I remember the figure 3,700 trees 
and bushes were to be planted around that 
hotel out in the middle of the desert. It must’ve 
converted the desert. 

Well, essentially that was the idea. In other 
words, you made an oasis in the desert. We 
did as much of it as we could. 


You had the Ramona Room... that was the 
large dining room, and you had a stage there 
for entertainment, didn’t you? 

Yes, we did. 

Then there was the Carrillo Room. Could you 
tell me a little about that? 

Well, Mr. Griffith, due to having operated 
a theater a number of years, knew and had 
made friends with many performers in the 
theater-film industry. He knew and was a very 
good friend of Leo Carrillo, who was known 
at that particular time as quite a western star. 
He got a hold of Mr. Carrillo, asked him to 
come to Las Vegas [and] asked for permission 
on the telephone to name a room after him, 
which essentially was a bar. 

That was a nice honor. 

The bar was transformed from the old 
Pair O’ Dice Club, which I’m sure had another 
name which I’m not familiar with. 

Now, this was on the highway? 

It was on the highway on the property that 
we purchased to build the Hotel Last Frontier. 
We incorporated it into the hotel proper. 

So you built around the Pair O’ Dice Club? 

That’s right. Essentially the Pair O’ Dice 
Club was made up of a bar and a casino. 

Was that the bar from the old Arizona Club? 

No, it was not. That was the one that was 
named the Leo Carrillo Bar. We had a make- 
believe fireplace built into the bar. And we 
took out the dining room, naturally. We made 



University of Nevada Oral History Program 


7 


restrooms and storage room out of a part of 
the space in the kitchen, and we used the 
other portion with the bar and the extension 
of the dining room as the Leo Carrillo Bar and 
had a picture of Leo Carrillo as a part of the 
decoration in the room...a very large picture. 

Did he come to the opening? 

He came to the opening as our guest. 
What was the other bar? 

The other bar was called the Gay Nineties. 
[It] was a bar out of the old Arizona Club, 
which was in Block 16 of the red light district 
right in the heart of Las Vegas when I arrived 
in Las Vegas. We purchased the bar and the 
front entrance to the bar, which happened 
to be in the form of leaded glass, and put it 
into the hotel as the Gay Nineties Bar—used 
it exactly as it was originally built other than 
the fact that we did add some saddle bar 
stools made out of leather in the form of a 
western saddle. Naturally, we had to make 
it comfortable. We didn’t use the complete 
saddle design, but looking at the rear of the 
bar stool was like looking at the rear of a 
saddle. So in some cases there were stools 
big enough for 2 people because you would 
actually be—what looked like—seated on the 
side of the saddle. 

Well, that bar was magnificent. I’ve seen 
pictures of it. There was also a fine painting in 
the bar. Do you remember who painted that? 

There’s quite a story of an old scene in a 
gambling house. The scene was painted of 
a woman that had had too much to drink 
arguing with the bartender over additional 
booze. Some of us felt that maybe it was 
carrying things a little bit too strong—in 


that it occupied one whole end of the bar—to 
depict the woman in as bad shape. The painter 
agreed to stop the painting, but if he did then, 
naturally, the painting would have to come 
off the wall. He insisted on painting it as he 
had originally made the deal; he was to have 
complete charge of the subject matter, and 
nobody was to interfere. 

He was an artist, [laughter] 

Naturally, we didn’t want to do away with 
the picture, so we let him continue. It was well 
executed and a good artist’s [portrayal] of a 
western scene and western characters and things 
that actually did happen in the early days in not 
only Las Vegas but all western communities. 

We later found out why he insisted on 
going forth. He stated that the picture of 
the woman, while it didn’t depict his wife in 
the way she looked, was actually depicting 
his wife in the fact that she had become an 
alcoholic and was getting worse and worse. If, 
when he had finished the picture and received 
the final commission on it, he hadn’t been able 
to talk her into doing something about it, then 
he was going to put her in an institution with 
a major portion of the money and get out of 
town to another location. He did later talk his 
wife into joining Alcoholics Anonymous. 

That was an oil painting? 

That was an oil painting. 

Do you remember who the painter was? 

No, I don’t. 

Do you know whatever became of that painting? 

No. I presume it probably went with the 
bar; the bar building and walls as well as 



8 


William J. Moore 


the bar and the whole front entrance and so 
forth was taken out at the time the Hotel Last 
Frontier was demolished to build a Frontier 
Hotel. I believe that’s the way they carried 
the name. So I presume that painting is still 
in that building if the building still exists. I 
don’t know., .last time I saw it it was up on 
shoring stilts on the road directly behind the 
Hotel Last Frontier. 

That was a magnificent bar, just a beautiful bar 
It was a beautiful bar. 

There was also a gift shop, wasn’t there, in the 
hotel? 

There was, yes, in the lobby. 

What kind of things were sold there? 

All type of western jewelry...Indian 
jewelry, turquoise, silver, even down to gold 
and whatnot. But there was more turquoise 
and silver than gold items. Then they sold 
saddles; they sold bridles. There was one 
silver-mounted saddle and bridle there that 
was worth thousands of dollars that they did 
sell to somebody out of that gift shop. Who 
they sold to, I don’t remember. 

So there were really fine things there, then? 

That’s right. 

The hotel really had an air of class about it, 
then, didn’t it? 

It did have. It was designed as a western- 
motif establishment, and we tried to carry that 
theme out in everything that was done. 

The bedrooms were interesting. 


Well, the only way that the bedrooms 
could be interesting was again in the design of 
the structure and principally in the furniture. 

How was the furniture unique? 

We had commissioned various furniture 
manufacturers to submit designs on furniture 
for the rooms. We selected the furniture 
from the designs, and they built according to 
their drawings so that you didn’t have just a 
stereotyped piece of furniture. 

Didn’t the headboard of the bed have a horn...? 

In some cases, yes. Other cases [they] had 
other types of western motifs. 

Everything seems to have been very carefully 
thought out. I saw an advertising brochure 
that advertised “Duck, quail, pheasant, doves, 
grouse and sage hen. Deer and bobcat. Guides 
available.” Where did they hunt those things? 

Well, in Utah. The guides were available, 
and we’d get hold of the people and let 
them plan a trip with these guides. As an 
illustration, there was a banker out of the 
Midwest that used to come out here every 
year and stay 3 months at least—sometimes 
as much as 5 months. He was retired, so that 
he had a lot of time on his hands; there were 
others out of wealthy families in the East 
that came on the same basis; They would 
commission the guides, and they would set up 
planned trips to go on these various hunts or 
fishing or whatnot, and they made their own 
deals. Only time we entered into it was to be 
sure that the people were not being robbed 
in the fees that they were having to pay these 
people. We didn’t draw anything out of it— 
never intended to draw anything out of it; it 
was just an accommodation to the guests. 



University of Nevada Oral History Program 


9 


I think it’s interesting, though, that people came 
here to hunt and fish and do that kind of thing. 
Gambling was not the only drawing. 

That’s true. Today, they’re putting on big 
tennis matches. That way, Las Vegas is getting 
national and international publicity without it 
costing the city of Las Vegas a penny. Boxing 
is another thing. Golfing is another thing. 
In other words, essentially there are reasons 
behind all of this. People that have the time 
to go to boxing matches and go to tennis 
matches and so forth and so on in most cases 
have money. So they have money to gamble 
and play with. 

We’re talking about promotion now, and I was 
talking to someone the other day who said that 
you were the one who began promoting Las 
Vegas in southern California first. You were 
the one who attracted attention to this area. 

That is probably true in that we had to 
promote the theaters originally. I n 
working through them I had been promoting 
various events, various theatrical enterprises 
and so forth during high school, through 
college and so forth, so that it was not an 
unfamiliar thing with me. We were trying to 
tie the hotel and gambling business back to 
what we had learned in the theater business 
in bringing up an industry from nothing to 
where it had become a tremendous industry 
for the nation in a very short period of time. 

What, exactly, did you do? It was certainly 
before television. It’s easy to do now. But what 
kind of promotions did you make? 

Well, as an illustration, we put on a road 
show. What I mean by road show is this: 
back in the old burlesque days, naturally 
there were burlesque entertainers. There was 


originally the Chautauqua circuit, and then 
there came the burlesque and so forth. Well, 
you can hire these people or set up your own 
company and bring them in. But it finally got 
to the point where burlesque was no longer 
fashionable and the Chautauqua circuit was 
gone—the entertainers were all gone...all old 
or retired or so forth to where they just weren’t 
available. So what we did was get together a 
certain picture and go to the studios and find 
out what they were making in the form of a 
continuing deal, such as The Return of Jesse 
James or all the Jesse James movies having to 
do with their robbing the bank and robbing 
the stagecoaches and robbing the various 
enterprises, including individuals. And we 
bought old western attire; we bought wax 
dummies of Jesse James.... 

The real thing, [laughter] 

The real thing. We’d usually set up a display 
in front of the theater or in conjunction with 
the theater wherein we’d make a big to-do 
about what was in this motion picture and so 
forth. We would obtain the exclusive rights 
for the use of this picture. And in many cases 
the studios would send us, we’ll say, one film 
clip or one roll of film out of the movie, and 
that would be shown prior to the actual use of 
the movie in the theater and was used in the 
form of a serial. In other words: this particular 
picture will be in Las Vegas, Nevada, on a 
certain time, and this is a clip out of the movie. 
And it was a free clip. People were not as 
sophisticated in the entertainment line then 
as they are today. So we had no problems 

because we already had an audience—in 
that we had them in the theater for another 
picture—and we’d show this clip as something 
free to them and promote them to come back. 

Now, again, tying that back to the hotel 
business. Mr. Griffith used to make the 



10 


William J. Moore 


statement—right or wrong, he still made 
the statement—that the only thing wrong 
with the hotel business is that there were too 
many hotel people in it. He meant by that 
that there’s very little promotion. They did 
very little catering to the public. It was a staid 
type business so that they essentially were 
interested in their own welfare and nobody 
else’s. 

They were a conservative lot, weren’t they? 

They were a conservative lot. So that be 
the case, he was trying to add to the business 
in order to bring it up to the point it is today, 
not only in Las Vegas, but in Hollywood and 
Los Angeles and Hoboken and so forth. 

Any place where there’s a successful hotel? 

That’s right. Again, this gets back to 
operations today, I feel...felt then and I feel 
now. We added it as a promotion as far as 
the town and hotel was concerned in that 
there must be some entertainment. Originally 
they started off with maybe a strolling unit in 
and around the bars composed of, we’ll say, 
3 musicians. If you had any entertainment, 
it was in the form of Sophie Tucker or Joe 
E. Lewis [and] so forth—one entertainer. 
Sometimes the entertainer carried his own 
unit with him. 

Band or musicians? 

Musicians—some other entertainers 
that tied back into him as an entertainer. In 
booking him you acquired the whole unit. But 
essentially that was it. Now, the first year of 
operation at the Hotel Last Frontier, just bear 
in mind the salaries then were considerably 
lower than they are on today’s market. 


We sold [our interest in the Last Frontier] 
in 1950.1 say we sold out—I took stock for my 
architectural fee and wound up as the general 
manager and the vice-president of the hotel. 
[I] operated the hotel for 10 years during 
the entire operation as long as the particular 
group I was originally associated with was in 
the hotel as owners or operators. 

Well, did you start a different entertainment 
policy? 

We started a different entertainment 
policy. Our first year in business we spent 
$185,000. That was the entire budget. 

For entertainment? [laughter] 

For entertainment. 

And you had some very good people, I know, 
from the newspapers. 

That’s right. And the last year in business 
we expended over 2 million. 

In 1950? 

In 1950. Now, that’s the difference in just 
our operation. 

Well, what did you do that was different from 
what El Rancho did? 

Not a lot more. Except that we forced 
El Rancho to come up in order to stay in 
competition. If they hadn’t jumped into the 
puddle and come up, we probably could’ve 
booked that same entertainment for a 
million that we had to pay 2 [million] for. It’s 
unfortunate, but again, it gets back to the same 
thing I told you about the theater. 



University of Nevada Oral History Program 


11 


But I noticed from the newspaper that from 
the very first you had several people on the bill 
all the time, rather than just one person. For 
example, you had Pinky Tomlin as master of 
ceremonies; that was certainly a good name to 
have. And you had a musician and a Spanish 
dancer, and you had a number of people who 
were entertainers. 

Again, there was one advantage that we 
possibly had over Mr. Hull. That is that fact 
that Griffith, [who] had been in the theater 
business, was able to go to a lot of these 
entertainers and talk them into coming to Las 
Vegas, where Hull did not have that power to 
so do. Naturally, if they came here we were 
willing to pay them, we’ll say, $500 a week. 
Hull said, “Well, all right. You come down to 
my establishment, and I’ll give you $1,000 a 
week.” 

But you were really creating jobs here, weren’t 
you, in the entertainment field? 

We were creating jobs, yes. But we were 
also in a position of furnishing our own 
competition. We had no alternative. 

And that’s why it cost you 2 million 10 years 
later? 

That’s right. But again, the only way that 
we could’ve got this is to own all the hotels. 
Well, that’s impossible. 

It would’ve been nice. 

It would’ve been nice. 

Now, I see how you promoted the hotel, but 
when you went to southern California to get 
the people interested in coming over here for 


weekends and for holidays in the resort, what 
kind of tactics did you use? 

Here’s an illustration: we started the first 
airplane promotion. 

That’s interesting. What was that? 

Inducing people, for a reduced fee, to come 
to Las Vegas. They bought their ticket in Los 
Angeles or in Detroit or in Dallas or whatnot, 
and we made a deal with the individual 
operators. One of the people we made a deal 
with, as an illustration, is Kirk Kerkorian, 
who later turned up in Las Vegas in the hotel 
business—built what is now the Hilton Hotel. 
Had we not made a deal with him originally, 
who was in the airplane business... 

Kerkorian was at that time? 

Yes. He was in the business of 
transportation and owned quite a number of 
airplanes. [Hell was in a position to buy quite 
a number of others at a very reduced rate.] 

What line was Kerkorian with? 

Had his own line; I don’t even remember 
the name of it. But we didn’t deal with 
Kerkorian directly. In other words, he had 
somebody working for him that we dealt with. 

So you had a package: low fare and then maybe 
a weekend or 3 days for a set fee? 

That’s right. It included the room; it 
included a certain number of meals. It 
included the transportation to and from, all 
at a price—a very reduced one. 

So that did attract a lot of people? 



12 


William J. Moore 


And it attracted a lot of people. 

Well, that’s innovative. 

We originally started it on the buses. 

Was this in southern California? 

Yes. The buses were slow and.... 

Same kind of deal, though...a package deal? 

Package deal and so forth. After we got 
that started, we decided, well, we can make 
a deal on the airplane. So we made a deal. 
Naturally, we’re not going to be the only fish 
in the pond, so others were forced to go into 
it, which they did do. 

Did you advertise a great deal in newspapers 
and] on radio? 

Yes, yes we did. It’s the same proposition 
as the entertainment. Our first year in 
business, of course, we were right in the 
middle of the war, so you’ve got to take care 
of the military when the military want to 
show. It didn’t make any difference when 
they want to show, you got to take care 
of them. So we were forced during this 
period to get out and find rooms in other 
establishments, even to the point of private 
homes because they’d call from the army air 
base out here, and: “We’ve got 5 generals,” 
and so forth and so on, “and we want them 
put up there tonight.” Well, they run 30 
rooms in on them. Had no alternative—you 
had to give them the rooms. They have the 
power to come out there and just move the 
people out of their room, even if they were 
in it. So you took care of them. 

That was good advertising, though. 


You had to take care of the people. So you 
didn’t stand up there and act like a dummy; 
you got out and found the rooms. You didn’t 
say, “Well, you get a cab,” and whatnot. We 
actually took the station wagon—the hotel 
station wagon—and hauled them down there 
ourselves. 

Did you often have to go out into the town and 
ask for rooms’ 

Yes, we did. There’s an illustration. 
There’s a period of one year that we actually 
occupied one motel here in town. That’s all 
we had was a motel. We were using the rooms 
so often that I just went to them and made a 
deal. We bought 70 rooms from them every 
night. 

What motel was that? 

It was one right across the street from 
where the Desert Inn is now located. So we 
bought 70 rooms and paid them whether we 
used them or not. In most cases we used them. 
I can’t even remember the name of the motel. 
But we made a point of accommodating the 
people. 

You were certainly service oriented, weren’t 
you? 

That’s right. Take the average motel, as an 
illustration, a small motel. You go in, and you 
get a little bitty old towel that by the time you 
finish drying half your body the thing’s wet. 
Soaked. 

[laughter] 

That’s the truth! 

That’s right, [laughter] 



University of Nevada Oral History Program 


13 


So you don’t have a feeling of luxury OK. 
Part of feeling luxurious, as an illustration, is 
that sumptuous feeling that washing.... 

A big heavy towel... 

So forth and so on. It goes without saying 
that a hell of a lot of this stuff is packed off out 
of the rooms, but it just becomes an expense 
of operation as far as we were concerned in 
operating the hotel. 

Of course, that’s an advertisement—every time 
your towel appears someplace. 

That’s right. Now, we even got this strong; 
we even took our name of f the towels. 

Because you had so many taken? 

No, no. Because we knew that it was a 
way better towel than were being used in the 
average person’s home— even the wealthy 
people’s homes. We knew that if Jim Jones 
took a bunch of those towels, wash rags and 
whatnot, that Mrs. Smith down the street who 
happens to visit that person’s home is going to 
insist [on] knowing where those towels and 
whatnot came from. He can’t tell, or he tells 
them what happened; so in our opinion, over 
a period of time, he would finally wind up 
telling where they came from. “They were just 
so damn nice,” and so forth and so on, “that I 
just took them.” And that’s what did happen. 
We even had people—not just a few letters, 
but by the hundreds of letters—write and ask 
where they could buy that quality of material. 

That kind of luxury? 

That’s right. So what we were trying to 
establish was luxury, and it accomplished 
what we tried to do. 


Another thing that we did—my board 
finally got me down on it, but I still think I 
was right—another thing that we did in the 
way of promotion [was] we used real silver. 

Sterling? 

Sterling. 

Didn’t you miss a lot of that? 

Yes, we did. But it was my contention that 
most of the stuff that we were missing was 
being dumped out by our own employees 
into the garbage. And it was true then, and 
it is still true today. So you made a deal with 
your garbage man—the guy that’s picking up 
the garbage out of the hotel and feeding it to 
the pigs and so forth. To start with he could 
care less, if he’s feeding pigs, whether you got 
sterling silver or whether you got the worst 
stuff on earth. [It’s] just so much metal as far as 
he’s concerned. So, my contention was that we 
go make a deal with him and pay him so much 
a fork or so much a knife, or a combination 
of some kind, that he’d be tickled to death to 
gather that junk up, wash it and bring it back. 

Make it worth his while. 

So we did, and we found that fully 75 
and usually about 85 percent of the stuff that 
people thought was being stolen was not being 
stolen at all. 

Just carelessness in the kitchen. 

So we were getting back the most of it. 
The biggest damage was the rough treatment 
of the silver. But, anyway, we started that. 
Naturally, if you keep that stuff polished you’re 
setting a hell of a table. I mean it really shows 
up bright. 



14 


William J. Moore 


Yes, it’s elegant. 

Now, individual services for coffee, so 
forth and so on, were still sterling silver, and 
individual serving dishes that you left at the 
table are sterling silver. 

You mean serving pieces? 

Yes. Our contention was that all that 
bother with the linen was the same thing as 
the silver. It was being hauled away; not stolen, 
but hauled away as garbage. And again, if 
you made the right kind of a deal, youd get it 
picked up and hauled back to you. 

Did you have your own laundry facilities, or 
did you send it out? 

We had our own laundry facility. We 
didn’t have in the beginning, but the laundry 
bill got so high that we finally put in the 
laundry equipment. Went down here to... 
right out of Barstow there—the army surplus 
store— and we were able to buy a complete 
laundry facility. It was our contention that 
if they could set up a laundry facility for 
taking care of all of that army-navy bunch, it 
certainly ought to be big enough to take care 
of ours. It was, and they did a hell of a j ob. But 
again, we tried in every way possible to create 
that luxury. 

I read in the newspaper about the fine meals 
that were served. How did you manage that 
during war-time rationing? 

Again, getting back to the War Production 
Board, it was necessary to have points, which 
were done in the form of stamps, in order to 
purchase anything on the critical list with the 
army, navy, and whatnot. Well, to be perfectly 
frank, there were few items that were not on 


the list. So you had to have points for sugar, 
had to have points for beef and might near 
anything in the form of meat. You had to 
have points for gasoline, which involved the 
transportation of the particular merchandise 
and whatnot, so that you’re really up against 
a problem. We were able to get a reasonable 
number of points, but the thing that really 
helped us was the fact that we did take care 
of the military. When we were in a problem 
and needed the points, we just went to the 
military and said, “Here, you want us to take 
care of you; now you take care of us. You make 
it possible for us to get those points so that we 
can purchase the stuff we want.” 

You were able to do that? 

We were able to do that—all unofficially. 

Now, you told me something about a ranch 
up in Moapa that also helped you out along 
those lines. 

Yes, that’s right. We bought 2 ranches 
in Moapa Valley. One we converted into a 
dairy with 300 milk cows and bought most 
of the milk [products]. [We got our herd] out 
of Cache Valley, Utah. [We] made our own 
butter—were able to make our own buttermilk. 
Got our own milk, you might say, in a much 
more desirable form and fresher than you 
would’ve been able to get out of the local dairy. 
We later took the second ranch, which we 
had set up as a dude ranch in the beginning, 
and converted it into registered cattle and the 
growing of cattle for butchering for the hotel. 

Did you do your own butchering? I mean, did 
you have a crew there to butcher? 

Certain amounts, yes. We were able to 
obtain permits for the rest, so that essentially 



University of Nevada Oral History Program 


15 


we were able to sell the cattle to processors, who 
turned around and sold the meat back to us. 

What did you do about the stamps and the 
points for that? 

Well, when it got up to the point that we 
didn’t have any points and we couldn’t make 
a trade with the army or navy at Nellis, then 
we just sold the cattle to the processors, who 
in turn were able to furnish us with enough 
stamps to make our own cattle purchases back. 

How large a herd did you have? Was this a 
sizable operation? 

Well, we were butchering quite a number 
of head up there every month. 

I’d like to pursue your other ranching operations 
a little. Did the dude ranch have a name? 

Hidden Valley Ranch. 

Were people admitted to the Hidden Valley 
Ranch just from the hotel, or could you come 
to the Hidden Valley Ranch without going to 
the hotel in Las Vegas? 

We never operated it as a dude ranch. 

Oh, you didn’t? 

No. We fixed it up, made all the repairs 
and painted the place inside and out and put 
in corrals and so forth and so on, but we never 
operated the thing as a dude ranch. 

But you had the intention to operate it, 
originally? 

We had the intention, but we had so much 
trouble in inducing people to go there—even 


as guests, wherein it cost them nothing— 
that we felt that in view of that it would be 
practically impossible to induce people to 
pay to be customers of the dude ranch. So we 
never operated it. 

Why do you suppose there was that reluctance? 

I do not know, except that as we tried 
to analyze it, it became apparent that they 
came to Las Vegas for entertainment, and 
they felt that the type of entertainment that 
they obtained at a dude ranch they could 
obtain at home. They did not have the type 
of entertainment and the various facilities 
such as gambling and so forth available at 
home. 

You wouldn’t have had gambling at the dude 
ranch? 

No. 

So that they didn’t want to rough it then, really? 

It wasn’t a matter of that. They just did not 
seem to want to go up there. 

So you never had any guests up there? 

No, except as free guests. And they would 
go with the idea that they were going to be 
there for a week, 10 days, and within 2 or 3 
days after they got there they started wanting 
to come back to Las Vegas. So, in view of that, 
we just never opened it up as a dude ranch. 

So that was a heavy expenditure for no return, 
right? 

Well, we tried to hold down the costs 
when we were originally doing it, so other 
than maybe a little fancier corral or that type 



16 


William J. Moore 


of thing, it was what we had to do anyway to 
operate a regular ranch. 

The buildings were already there? 

They all were already there, and we didn’t 
build any new ones. 

What happened to the ranch then when you 
decided you couldn’t use it for a dude ranch? 
How did you utilize it? 

We sold it. We operated it as a regular 
ranch. We had 2 ranches up there, really, 
and one of them we operated in such a 
way and planted feed and whatnot to feed 
out cattle, and we did feed out a number 
of head and butchered there on the ranch. 
We did operate [the other] as a dairy. We 
had, I believe, a 300 cow dairy, and we put 
in the automatic milkers and operated it 
as a regular dairy. [We] used what milk we 
could in our own establishment, and what 
we couldn’t use, we sold on the open market 
in Las Vegas. 

That was to ensure yourself a supply of dairy 
products during the war, right? 

That’s right. 

Did the dairy farm have a name? 

No, it was just called the Hidden Valley 
Ranch; we operated it as one entity, actually. 

To whom did you sell the dude ranch portion? 

I believe we sold it to Mr. Rupert, who was 
in the plumbing-contracting business in Las 
Vegas. 

Do you remember his first name? 


A. R. Rupert, I believe. 

And about what year was that? 

I do not remember the exact year that was. 
It was after the war was over with. 

Oh, so you held that ranch all during the war, 
then? 

Yes. [It was] somewhere around 1945 or 
1946 that we sold it. We sold the dairy ranch 
to Kenny Searles, who operated the Anderson 
Dairy here in Las Vegas. He continued to 
operate it as a dairy ranch, and I think still is 
operating it as a dairy ranch. 

You just had no more need for that kind of an 
operation? 

That’s right. 

You had a very interesting innovation at the 
hotel — the Last Frontier Village. What 

can you tell me about that? 

Well, the Last Frontier Village was to induce 
additional customers to come to the hotel and 
to induce additional customers to come to Las 
Vegas. We knew of old, early-Nevada trains, 
various and sundry operating equipment, old 
stores, jails, so forth and so on that had been 
collected by a fellow by the name of Robert 
Caudill in Elko, Nevada, who had gotten the 
name of Doby Doc. Where he got the name I 
do not know, but everybody called him Doby, 
and nobody knew him by the name of Robert 
Caudill. But that was his actual name. [On] 
various trips to Elko for state hotel conventions 
and so forth, I had seen the various collections 
that Caudill had gotten together. It was stored 
in his own warehouse and/or yard. It had not 
been put together; it was not on display. 



University of Nevada Oral History Program 


17 


It was there in a very junky condition. 
I’d happened to see it principally because I 
was interested in Nevada history and, you 
might say, old western history, and I’d felt 
for a long time that most of the old relics in 
Nevada had been allowed to deteriorate and 
sold out to other areas, such as San Francisco 
and Los Angeles and St. Louis, Missouri, and 
so forth and so on. There had been nothing 
done to try and preserve the old Nevada 
collection—such as collections having to do 
with the early railroads, collections having to 
do with the Indian costumes and dress, old 
gold collections, old car collections and so 
forth. 

So we started creating that whole street or 
village as it would have existed in Nevada or 
any other part of the West—but principally in 
Nevada—and attempted to display all the stuff 
in a museum-usable fashion, so that it could 
be displayed in public and the public would be 
allowed to see it and use it and actually were 
not to be charged for viewing it. 

It was just to get people to the hotel and casino? 

Yes, it was. It was an advertising method 
in order to induce people to come to the hotel 
and stay there— patronize the hotel, patronize 
the village. We actually operated 2 bars and a 
gambling casino and a couple of restaurants. 
We had an old carousel, old original-type 
circus equipment, which did not come out of 
Doby’s collection. We did display his engines 
and trains and attempted to repaint them and 
decorate them as they were originally done 
at the time they were in actual operation in 
Nevada. 

Was the concept yours? Was the idea of the 
village yours? 

Yes, it was. 


When did the Last Frontier Village begin? 
When did you open? 

Either 1949 or 1950. 

You said that you had commercial enterprises 
in the village, and you mentioned 2 bars. What 
were their names? 

We had no particular names for them, as 
I remember it. 

What about the Silver Slipper? 

Well, there was a Silver Slipper there. 
Actually it was, you might say, the Silver 
Slipper Bar, if you wanted to give the bar that 
name. 

In our preliminary interview you told me a 
fascinating story about how it got the name 
Silver Slipper—that it originally was to have 
been called the Golden Slipper. Would you tell 
me that for the tape? 

Yes, it was originally called the Golden 
Slipper. We even had all of our advertising— 
menus, matches, so forth and so on—printed 
with Golden Slipper on them. And when 
we started advertising in the newspaper to 
announce the grand opening of the facilities, 
we received a call from Art Ham, who was the 
attorney and major stockholder in the Golden 
Nugget. 

What did he say? 

He indicated that he felt that we were 
infringing on the name of Golden Nugget by 
our Golden Slipper, and that the design was 
near enough to that of the Golden Nugget. 

You mean the sign? 



18 


William J. Moore 


No, the design of the actual structure 
itself. 

Oh, I see. The building itself. 

Yes. The idea was similar in the type of 
establishments that we were operating. [He 
said] that if we insisted on using the name 
Golden Slipper and did so, that he would 
sue us claiming that we were infringing 
on the Golden Nugget, and that they had 
copyrighted the name Golden Nugget and felt 
that we were subject to considerable damages 
on the part of the court. For this reason, the 
name was changed. It cost us somewhere in 
the neighborhood of $50,000 to reprint all the 
various advertising menus and so forth, but 
we felt that if he could make it stick in court, 
we would be subject to the damages he was 
referring to. 

We had no idea what damages would be 
assessed by the court and felt that we were 
on thin ground, and we felt that we had 
better change the name. We went out on the 
Boulder Highway and contacted an individual 
that owned an establishment—a bar and 
gambling casino—during the early part of 
the war and very possibly existed even before 
the war. I never did attempt to find out when 
it was first put in there. But the name of the 
establishment was the Silver Slipper. 

You knew about it out there? 

I knew about it. So we contacted the 
woman who owned the bar, and made a deal 
to buy the name Silver Slipper— wherein she 
would discontinue the use of it—and agreed to 
buy her new signs changing the name. What 
she changed it to, I do not even remember. 
But we bought the name; naturally, any signs 
that she had did not fit what we wanted to 
use. We just wanted to use the name. Then 


we changed all of our advertising—the signs 
for the building and so forth. 

That was a quick switch, wasn’t it? 

It was a quick switch, yes. 

I know that you had a contest for a girl who 
could fit into a slipper, because you gave 
the library [University of Nevada Las Vegas 
James Dickinson Library] a slipper; and it, 
incidentally, was gold. Can you remember 
anything about that contest? 

It turned out to be the wife of one of the 
employees, and she was the only one that 
fit the slipper that we had and used in the 
advertising. 

You just went out and bought a little slipper? 
It was for a pretty small foot. 

Yes, it was a rather small foot. So later, we 
picked up one of her slippers and had it gold 
plated, and then later silver plated when we 
changed the name from the Golden Slipper 
to the Silver Slipper. 

Well, the one you gave us is still gold plated. Do 
you remember the girl’s name? 

No, I do not. 

It was just a promotion, then? 

Yes, it was. She was given a considerable 
prize, and she was touted at the opening of 
the Silver Slipper and so forth, but I just do 
not remember the exact details at the present 
time. 

Were there a lot of girls who tried out for the 
silver slipper? 



University of Nevada Oral History Program 


19 


Yes, quite a number. 

They could just come in and put their foot in 
that slipper to see if it fit? 

That’s right. 

Well, it sounds like fun. 

It was. 

You said there were other commercial shops 
[in the village], Fanny [Soss] had a shop there, 
didn’t she—the dress shop? 

Yes. 

So all the buildings weren’t old Nevada 
buildings. There were some new replica 
buildings built? 

Yes. 

Hers looked very modern and nice. 

Yes. I believe that her particular building 
was part of an older building that was later— 
due to the fact that she felt that she had to have 
a more modern structure because of selling 
modern-day women’s clothes—remodeled 
into a more up-to-date period from the 
original structure. 

Can you remember any other commercial 
enterprises in the village? 

Well, there was a rock shop there. They sold 
various and sundry rocks of all descriptions 
and geological periods. And there was a 
leather shop. There was a shop there that sold 
paintings of various Nevada artists of that 
particular period—paintings of the old towns, 
the old equipment, horses, so forth. 


Western subjects usually? 

Western subjects. 

Were they leased, or did they give part of their 
profits to the village? How did that work? 

They were leased...most of them on a 
monthly basis against a percentage of their 
profits. 

How long did the village last? 

Well, it was in operation at the time the 
village and hotel were sold. 

That would be 1950? 

I believe it was 1950 or 1951 when the 
hotel was sold. 

You told me an interesting story in our 
preliminary interview about the filling station 
and how profitably you operated that. Where 
did the building come from? 

We built the building. It was a replica of 
that particular period. It was not a replica of a 
hlling station. In other words, the design was 
of a particular period. 

Did you design the building? 

No, it was designed by [Walter] Zick 
and [Harris] Sharp, Las Vegas architects. 
Originally, because Texaco had [been] using 
a fire chief—old, you might say, western-type 
advertising on their stations and promotion— 
we felt that it was a good tie-in for the Last 
Frontier Village. We had Zick and Sharp design 
a structure using the period-type architecture 
that tied in with the old fire engine and tied in 
with Texaco’s advertising. They came up with 



20 


William J. Moore 


the design, and after several changes it was 
adapted to the particular structure and later 
built. What you were referring to when you 
said unusual type of promotion, we went to 
Texaco with the idea. Part of the idea was 
to put showers, restrooms and so forth that 
would be inducive to the people cleaning up 
after a drive across the desert. These restrooms 
were rather elaborate—quite a number 
of stools and lavatories—various types of 
equipment that we could use in promotion, 
where the people would have the service that 
could be advertised on the road. 

Did you charge for the showers? 

No, we didn’t. So the station itself was a 
rather costly station compared to the average 
station that’s built today. But we felt that it was 
worth it at the time, and I still do feel that it 
was a good promotion. 

Did your company pay for the building of the 
structure? 

Yes. We leased the land to Texaco originally. 
They in turn leased it back to the company for 
a dollar a year. In turn, our company built the 
station, put the signs on; Texaco furnished the 
equipment in the dollar-a-year lease, such as the 
gasoline pumps and the equipment in the repair 
facility—they’re called, I believe, bays in the 
filling station trade. They were, as I remember, 
full bays with automatic lifts and so forth, 
making it a modern filling station in today’s 
operation. And we used the old horse-drawn fire 
engine that Texaco had used in their advertising. 

But that belonged to Doby Doc, didn’t it, that 
fire engine? Wasn’t that in his collection? 

The fire engine belonged to Doby Doc, 
but we didn’t use the fire engine as the sign. 


We had a sign company build a sign for the 
top of the marquee over the filling station. 
It was both electrical bulbs and neon, and 
a very fancy sign showing the old horse- 
drawn vehicles. The horses were painted on 
the sign and so forth. It became part of the 
advertising. 

Then we leased the operation to an 
operator on a gallon lease basis and were 
able to get—because of the facilities that we 
furnished—approximately 3C a gallon for 
the final lease on the station. The station was 
one of the very few on the highway at that 
particular time and did a substantial business 
at 2 Vi cents to 3 cents per gallon of gasoline 
pumped; it became a very profitable part of 
the operation. 

So you leased it to someone to operate it for 
you? 

We leased it to a fellow by the name of 
Andy Anderson...a local boy here, who’s 
dead now. He was a big, very jovial fellow. 
He liked the idea of operating the station 
and entered into all of the promotions that 
he could enter into, using the old fire engine 
that we had leased from Doby Doc. While it 
was not horse-drawn—it was, you might say, 
a truck-drawn vehicle—it was of a type that 
was similar to the type of equipment that was 
originally horse-drawn. 

What happened to those buildings? 

Well, I do not know. 

Was the village operated after you sold out in 
1950 or 1951? 

It was in operation at the time we sold. 
What they did with it later I do not know. I 
believe they just elected not to operate the 



University of Nevada Oral History Program 


21 


station, and when the various leases ran out 
the then operators just tore down the station. 

The people who bought the hotel and casino 
were no longer interested in that really old 
western motif ? 

They were interested in the operation of 
the Silver Slipper as such, but they were not 
interested in the operation of the western 
village that went along with the Silver Slipper. 

But they did considerable remodeling of the 
hotel-casino, too, didn’t they? 

Yes, they did. So what existed in their 
minds, I do not know. 

I know that they painted over that beautiful 
stonework in the foyer there. 

Yes, they did make quite a number of 
changes—you might say, modernized some 
of the western motifs that we had originally 
put into the building. 

There was another innovation of yours—the 
Little Church of the West. Can you tell me 
about that? 

Yes. When we first opened the hotel, there 
was quite a number of marriages and divorces. 
And it was quite a part of the business that 
existed in Las Vegas. In other words, the 
divorcees would come and live here for 6 
weeks, and naturally they spent what money 
they had to spend, and it became a part of 
the operation in Las Vegas. There were a 
number of marriages, and it was promoted 
quite thoroughly at the time. We thought, 
because of the old churches that we had seen 
in western towns still existing in California 
and Nevada—old churches that still existed 


and were in operation—that we could make a 
church a part of the wedding chapel business. 
Most of the wedding chapels had the interior 
of a chapel or church, but the exteriors were 
usually an old home or a part of another 
structure of some kind. 

P. Were there many of those chapels? 

There were probably as many as 25 or 30 
in the whole town. 

Where were they generally located? 

All over town, but principally [on] lead- 
in roads into the town and out of the town. 
They existed on what is known as the Boulder 
Highway, or Fremont Street, and Highway 91, 
which was Fifth Street. It’s now known as Las 
Vegas Boulevard North and South. 

So you got them coming and going. 

I went to California and took numerous 
pictures of an old church that existed and was 
in operation, and then brought the pictures 
back and induced Zick and Sharp to reduce 
them down in size using the whole scale of the 
church and the measurements that I took at 
the time I took the pictures, so they became 
a miniature of the actual church in operation 
in the state of California. They did make 
the drawings, and we got our maintenance 
crew at the hotel to build it according to the 
drawings that they made on a miniature basis. 
Then [we] hired a wedding chapel director or 
employee to handle the various weddings. 

Who was that? Do you remember? 

Well, numerous ones during the time that 
we operated the church—or chapel, if you 
want to call it that—Helen Connors being 
one of them. I do not know her name now, 



22 


William J. Moore 


but I believe you have talked to her, and she 
originally was Mrs. Keeper. That is not her 
name at the present time. 

Yes, she talked to me at length about that. 

She was one of the directors. There were 
2 or 3 others. Originally we tried to do it in 
conjunction with the publicity department of 
the hotel. I believe the original director of the 
chapel was a girl by the name of Jerrie Wycoff, 
who was in charge of the publicity at the hotel 
when we first opened the chapel. 

That was the first wedding chapel that was 
constructed specifically to be a wedding chapel: 
the rest were renovated buildings and make- 
do s? 

Yes, as far as I know. 

How long did it stay on site there? 

I think at the time we sold the hotel it was 
still in existence. It was later moved to the 
opposite end of the property when certain 
improvements were made in the hotel. I do 
not know when it was moved, but it was 
picked up and moved in its entirety to the 
south end of the hotel grounds and then 
operated there as a chapel for several years. 
When the Fashion Show shopping center was 
built on the Strip, it was moved again. What 
was done with it then, I do not know. 

Well, it’s down at the Hacienda Hotel now, I 
believe — down at the other end of the Strip. 
It’s a lovely building. 

You’ve been engaged in a number of 
enterprises, Mr. Moore, and one of them I know 
was the development of the Showboat. Would 
you care to talk about that? 


Well, I was operating the Hotel El Cortez. 

Oh, you got into the El Cortez before you went 
into the Showboat? 

Yes. 

Is that where you went after you left the 
Frontier? 

Yes. At the time the Frontier was sold, I 
negotiated a lease on the Hotel El Cortez, and 
induced, I think it was, 20 people to join me 
as partners. We remodeled the El Cortez— 
sandblasted and refinished all the furniture 
and fixtures that we could use—and later 
opened the Cortez in the remodeled state 
with the partners. During the time that we 
were operating the Hotel El Cortez, a group 
attempted to move 6 or 8 of the buildings that 
existed out at Henderson someplace and were 
originally used as a barracks for employees 
out at Henderson. They had moved these 
barracks buildings in on a piece of property 
on the Boulder Highway and were attempting 
to install a motel. 

They were going to utilize these buildings? 

Utilize these buildings and remodel them 
into a motel. 

They’d been used out on the Davis Dam 
construction, hadn’t they? 

It’s possible that some of them came from 
Davis Dam construction. Where they were 
used, I do not know. I do know that at the time 
I got interested in the project, they had already 
moved the buildings onto a foundation on 
the property, and that’s where it had stopped. 
In other words, they hadn’t remodeled them 



University of Nevada Oral History Program 


23 


any, and they had bought some washed-air 
air conditioning equipment. 

Swamp coolers. 

Swamp coolers...which were not 
satisfactory for what we wanted to use them 
for. And they had bought quite a little of the 
plumbing supplies for bathrooms and tubs 
and showers and so forth and so on. But they 
hadn’t used any of it; they had it stored in the 
compound. 

They had apparently gone broke because 
they were having an auction on the property, 
including the buildings and what equipment 
was there and whatnot. In the advertising 
on the auction they published a list of the 
equipment, the number of buildings, the 
number of rooms in each building and 
so forth. After a survey that I had made, 
I felt that it was the absolute center of the 
population of the whole valley and that it 
would be a good location for a hotel/gambling 
establishment—a public enterprise of sorts. 
So I went to the auction with the idea that— 
if it didn’t get too high— I would buy the 
property at auction and either go forward with 
a motel or decide not to use it and move the 
old barracks off and use it for a hotel project. 

I attended the auction, then started bidding, 
and it became obvious that I only had one 
bidder against me and that all we were doing 
was just sitting there bidding up the price that 
each of us was willing to pay. So I contacted the 
fellow who was bidding against me. I asked him 
if he wanted to join me in the enterprise and 
told him what I had in mind and told him that 
it would probably later be put into a corporate 
entity. And he agreed to join me. 

How did you do this while the bidding was 
going on? 


They usually have certain periods during 
any of the bidding where they stop the bidding 
for a short period of time. It was very hot at 
the time the bidding was done, and every now 
and then they’d stop it to allow people to get a 
drink of water or to have some refreshments 
and so forth and so on. So they stopped it long 
enough—for what reason, I do not remember 
now—where I was allowed to contact him and 
go into this thing which only took a few minutes. 

It was agreed that I would handle the 
bidding in the future; it was agreed what 
percentage he would have in the project—for 
which, naturally, he had to put up money. 
When the bidding opened again, why, I was 
the only bidder, so one additional bid on my 
part allowed me to buy the hotel. 

Do you remember what your bid was? 

No, I do not remember. 

So you examined all your acquisitions? 

Yes, and decided that the plumbing 
fixtures and whatnot were of too cheap a type 
that would not allow a decent bathroom to be 
installed with each of the rooms. 

You always liked first class, didn’t you? 

Well, the town demanded it, frankly. It 
wasn’t a matter of my liking it; it was trying 
to put in something that you could sell. You 
had to put in something that would appeal to 
the customers. 

So we decided that we would sell the 
buildings, allowing a certain time to move 
the buildings, and sell the plumbing fixtures 
and whatnot., .or give them away—anyway, 
dispose of them in some fashion. And we did 
sell 3 of the buildings. 



24 


William J. Moore 


How many did you have originally? 

I guess there were S buildings. [We] sold 
3 of them [but] were not able to sell any more 
at that particular time. I called in contractors 
to see if I could get the buildings torn down to 
use the lumber, and in most cases they were 
not willing to tear the buildings down for the 
lumber. [They] felt that it would cost them 
too much...they could go buy new lumber 
cheaper than they could buy the lumber in the 
building and then furnish the labor to teat it 
down and pull the nails and so forth. 

You were offering the buildings for salvage? 

Yes. So they moved the 3 buildings off. 
They also took the plumbing to go with the 3 
buildings, and the other plumbing we sold out 
as salvage. [We got] probably 20 cents on the 
dollar for it. The other structures were [still] 
there, so we called in the fire department, and 
they set it up as a project and set the buildings 
on fire and used it to train the firemen to put 
out the fires on the buildings. Later, they set 
them on fire and burned them completely to 
the ground. 

What a marvelous solution! [laughter] 

Then we called in a couple of architects 
out of Salt Lake City, and they designed a 
high-class motel structure. 

Who were the architects? 

Do not remember. I think it’s in the early 
promotion or advertising on the opening of 
the hotel, but I do not remember their names. 

How did you decide on the theme—the 
Showboat? That was decided, wasn’t it, by the 
time you went to the architects? 


Well, yes. There was no theme; everything 
was western around here at the particular 
time. The theme of the Showboat or the old 
structures had to do with the early days of that 
particular western period in San Francisco 
and in St. Louis, Missouri, and so forth and 
so on. The theme hadn’t been used, so we felt 
that we’d use the theme. When they first laid 
the property out, it was not laid out with the 
thought in mind that we would build a casino, 
bar and restaurant in connection with the 
Showboat. 

It was just going to be a motel-hotel? 

Going to be a high-class motel. But soon 
after we started designing the motel, I was 
approached by one of the partners in the old 
El Cortez wanting to know if he could get a 
group of people together, and if we would 
build the outside of the structure for a casino, 
bar and restaurant in conjunction with the 
motel. He would take a lease on the structure 
at this point and cause the interior to be put in 
along this theme of the Showboat for a casino, 
bar and restaurant. We tentatively made a deal 
with him— Joe Kelly, who’s now president of 
the Showboat operation. And he brought 2 
people in with him. 

Who were they? 

Both of them were in the used car 
business here in Las Vegas at the time. I do 
not remember their names; however, their 
names are in the early promotion advertising 
and, I’m sure, can be gotten together. They, 
in turn, made a deal with a group out of the 
Desert Inn, and they had the interior designed 
by studio designers and architects. I don’t 
know that there was an actual architect in the 
group, but they had to have an architect sign 
the original documents. What arrangement 



University of Nevada Oral History Program 


25 


was made along those lines, I do not know, 
but they did have the studio designers. 

What do you mean, studio designers? 

Well, every one of the major picture 
studios in Hollywood and the Los Angeles 
general area all had [design] departments. 
These designers have got a complete library— 
a very extensive library—of pictures and 
drawings and blueprints and so forth and 
so on; it’s a very elaborate filing system, and 
these designers design these sets for the 
motion pictures. They happened to catch the 
designers on a strike on the studios, which 
allowed them the use of the whole group of 
them. As a consequence, they probably got 
more authentic work done quicker than they 
would have gotten done had this strike not 
been going on. 

That was a lucky break. 

Yes. But anyway, they designed the complete 
interior, including the casino, the bar, the 
restaurant, the bingo parlor and so forth. And, 
naturally, [they] kept submitting it to me for 
approval before they were allowed to go ahead 
and build. They did go ahead and build and 
finished up and opened, naturally, at the same 
time we opened the room part of the hotel. They 
didn’t want to operate [all] of this structure. [They] 
were principally interested in the gambling end 
of the operation. So the lease was later revised, 
and we—that is, the hotel corporation—operated 
the bar and the restaurant and the room section, 
and they essentially operated the gambling end 
of the business. 

That was in about 1961? 

Nineteen sixty-one was when I sold out, 
but we opened the structure in 1954. 


The day before the opening you had a big 
rainstorm here, didn’t you? 

Yes, we did. 

I read a newspaper account that said there 
were several inches of rain out there and that 
the Showboat indeed looked like a Showboat 
for a short time! 

That was the most water I’ve ever seen in 
the valley. If we ever get that type of a rain 
again, there’s going to be a lot of trouble in Las 
Vegas because they closed up natural drainage 
channels; they built buildings of all types and 
descriptions, including homes and so forth, 
all over the valley. Even in front of my home, 
which at that time was on Sixth Street in the 
1200 block—1201 south Sixth— the water was 
running over the curb in front of my home 
with no particular drainage channels in the 
area. So that will give you an idea of how much 
water there was in this valley. 

That’s one of those 100 year rains, I think they 
call them. 

Yes. And we had to put sandbags all 
around the Showboat Hotel—built the 
sandbags at all entrances. We built them up 
as high as 2 feet, and at times it looked like we 
were going to have to go higher yet in order to 
keep the water out of the hotel. Finally it did 
get in there, in spite of us, to the point that 
the entire carpet and whole public area was 
absolutely sopping wet, and the water in and 
around the Showboat Hotel down there was 
approximately 2 feet above the roadway that 
exists today. 

We had just put in all of the grading and 
gravel and whatnot for all the parking lot in 
and around the hotel, and the paving had not 
been installed. The only way that we could 



26 


William J. Moore 


open when we said that we would open was to 
go in there and work night and day, 24 hours 
around the clock, with what we called cats and 
cans. In other words, we had to pull out all 
the dirt around the hotel and in the parking 
lot that had been put in and rolled out, and 
then haul in truckload after truckload after 
truckload of new gravel— dry gravel—and 
put it back into shape, roll it and then put the 
paving in. Just the extra labor that I had to pay 
the contractor for that 4 days amounted to in 
excess of $20,000, and then we had to buy all 
of the gravel at $3 a yard, and we had to pay 
the contractor for his additional time and 
whatnot. In other words, the water probably 
cost us in excess of $100,000 to $150,000 
in order to open on time. Today it would 
probably cost close to a half million dollars. 

It was an expensive rain, wasn’t it? 

It was. 

How many rooms can you recall were in the 
hotel originally? There are so many now. 

There was, I believe, 110 rooms. 

It was a 2 storey building, wasn’t it? 

Yes. 

When we were talking about the man against 
whom you were bidding, we never mentioned 
his name. 

A fellow by the name of Miles; [he] owns 
the Miles Hotel in Salt Lake City. 

Can you remember who some of the other men 
were? 


Well, he was the only one. Later we sold 
stock in the Showboat corporation, and there 
were other people involved at that particular 
time. That’s when the partners in the El Cortez 
all came into it. 

And they maintained their interest in the El 
Cortez, too? 

They maintained the interest in the El 
Cortez and had the same interest—bought the 
same interest—in the Showboat. In addition 
to that, we had other people, too, that joined 
that particular group. Robert Kaltenborn was 
one of the big stockholders in there, originally. 
I believe that other than Miles, he is the only 
substantial outside stockholder. Locally, there 
was a fellow by the name of Pierce...sold quite 
a little stock to Easterners that owned stock 
in the Golden Nugget. They all became a part 
of the group that owned substantial stock. 

Wasn’t J. K. Houssels part of that enterprise, 
too? 

He was a part of the El Cortez partnership 
group. He became a major stockholder in 
the Showboat enterprise because all of the 
partners joined in from the El Cortez. 

Did you sever your relationship with the 
El Cortez when you went on to develop the 
Showboat, or did you maintain both? 

No. That’s the reason they all wound up 
with the same percentage interest to stop any 
severence. In other words, they were all a part 
of it, so there was no reason to sever it. 

How long did you maintain that interest in the 
Showboat and the El Cortez? 



University of Nevada Oral History Program 


27 


I sold out to, you might say, the El 
Cortez partnership group in 1961. In other 
words, I sold my interest in the Showboat; 
all the other stockholders sold, except the El 
Cortez partnership group. They organized a 
corporation and bought out all of the other 
stockholders of the Showboat. 

You didn’t have the attachment and the feeling 
for the El Cortez and the Showboat that you 
had for the Old Frontier? 

No. 

There was more invested of yourself in that first 
enterprise? 

Well, in the first enterprise I was the 
architect and actually designed the enterprise. 
I had to do a lot of the promotion of the 
money, and I just had expended more time 
and more effort in the Frontier project, and as 
a consequence I had a deeper personal feeling 
for it. 

Well, it was a family enterprise, too. 

Yes. We owned the Frontier, you might 
say, lock, stock and barrel with the family 
members and people that had been associated 
with the family members for years. Id known 
most of the men since I was 6 or 8 years 
old. And in the theater business, I was an 
architect, [and] we built theaters all over the 
United States. Dealt with many of these men 
prior to the family dealing with them, so 
naturally I would have more of a feeling for 
the [Frontier]. 

Well, you left those enterprises in 1961. Do you 
recall what you did after that? 


I promoted a number of subdivisions in 
town, and bought property., .in some cases 
sold lots to developers; some cases, built the 
homes and/or business establishments on the 
property. 

Can you name me some of those housing 
facilities that you began? 

Well, at St. Fouis and Spencer there was 
20 acres in there that were converted to lots, 
and the lots were sold out to a developer 
by the name of Minott. He built homes on 
the lots and then sold the homes. Out on 
East Charleston there’s 40 acres of homes 
and commercial structures in there. It 
starts at the Thriftmart and so forth on East 
Charleston. We developed 40 acres of homes 
and triplexes in there, and the triplexes were 
later remodeled into commercial structures. 
We put in, along with a fellow by the name of 
Harry Polk, about 400 lots in Henderson that 
were later sold as trailer lots. Inotherwords, 
we sold them the lot, and they installed 
their trailer on the lot. We did it 

under the name of Trailer Homes Investment 
Corporation. We bought the property, I 
believe, from the city of Henderson. They’d 
bought the property from the government, 
and we installed these trailer lots...60-by- 
150-foot lots. 

Those are sizable. 

Yes, and a regular subdivision lot, and 
they were sold out to people that owned 
trailers. They moved the trailers on the lots 
and hooked them up to the sewer and water 
and so forth. 

What were some of your other developments? 



28 


William J. Moore 


Well, starting at Oakey Boulevard going 
north to Franklin Street on Fifth Street, Sixth 
Street, Seventh and a part of Eighth, we put 
in all of that development. 

Did it have a name? 

I’m sure it did, but I don’t remember what 
the name of it was. The property was owned 
by the Park estate. I had to deal with Art Ham, 
the attorney who had been the attorney for 
the Parks for a number of years. 

Was that the Dr. [William S.] Park, the dentist? 

Yes. The one that had all the old Indian 
collections and so forth and so on. [He] 
later left that whole collection of artifacts 
and whatnot to the museum at Henderson. 
[The Clark County Southern Nevada 
Museum.] 

It went down to Henderson? 

Yes. But it was available for somebody to 
use here for years, and nobody would build 
the facilities to house it. There were arrow 
points; there were old Indian dress of all 
kinds and description; there were old mining 
rocks and exhibits. It was rather complete 
that he’d gathered up over a period of years 
and made into exhibits and so forth. Nobody, 
including the city fathers and whatnot, 
would get around to doing anything about 
it! That’s what first started me thinking 
about the Frontier Village, really. They [the 
Park family] didn’t want their exhibit to be 
a part of the Frontier Village or any part of 
a private collection. They wanted the city or 
the county or, you might say, a public entity 
to do something about it. 

Had you made an offer to them? 


I tried to get it for the Frontier Village, but 
they turned me down. 

So you developed that property [the old Park 
land] then? 

Yes. 

How long were you in that kind of development? 

Well, probably up until around 1970— 
from 1961 to 1970. 

So you were nearing retirement, really. 

Yes. 

Did your company have a name? 

No, it operated under various names— 
Consolidated Oil Investment, Trailer Homes 
Investment Corporation, various and sundry 
corporate names. 

It was not just a local land development thing, 
then? 

No. 

You mentioned oil. Did you get into oil? 

Yes. During that particular period I 
drilled a number of oil wells out of Grand 
Junction, Colorado—most of it in Utah— 
but Grand Junction, Colorado, was the base 
of operations. Got into mining promotions 
having to do with uraniubought and sold 
stock and actually operated a couple of 
uranium mines during this particular period. 

I’d drilled several oil wells in Wyoming. 
It had been part of a promotion that I was 
involved in prior to coming to Las Vegas, and 
that’s where my interest lay. I had built these 



University of Nevada Oral History Program 


29 


steel buildings in Seminole, Oklahoma; in 
Wink, Texas; and Hobbs, New Mexico., .all 
of them oil field boom towns. 

As a consequence during that particular 
period I entered into leases on oil property. I 
drilled a number of wells— probably in excess 
of 300 of them in various states: Colorado, 
New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, so forth. 

So you really were the entrepreneur then, 
weren’t you? 

Well, I don’t know whether I was what you 
called the... 

Yes, I think that’s what you’d call it! [laughter] 

...but I was the promoter. 

Looking through the newspapers in the mid- 
1950s I found a number of references to a 
development that you were proposing at the 
time called the Caribbean. That was going to 
be a casino or a club? 

It was supposed to be a Hotel Caribbean. 
I put up option money [in 1954] to buy the 
property that starts at Spring Mountain Road 
and winds up at the Castaways and back to 
the apartment developments behind, which 
property I owned in there and built a 208 
unit apartment unit called the Westchester 
Gardens. The property in front of it was 
owned by Roscoe Coffman, and I put up 
option money to acquire the property and 
hired a fellow by the name of Green, who was 
an architect for Tommy Hull in the early days. 

That’s the El Rancho man? 

Yes. I hired him to make some preliminary 
designs on what was to be called the Caribbean 
Hotel. I carried the thing far enough to obtain 


a verbal commitment for the financing of the 
Caribbean out of Equitable Life Insurance 
Company, and after I obtained it verbally 
from the company I was called by the first 
vice-president of Equitable, asking me to 
appear along with the architect and contractor 
in their eastern office to go over the whole 
project with the board of directors. I did 
contact the architect and the contractor, or 
what I was proposing to use as a contractor. 

I happened to be on vacation in the New 
England states— in Boston—when they 
contacted me out of Las Vegas telling me that I 
had received this request to bring the architect 
and the contractor and appear before the board 
of Equitable. So I got hold of the architect and 
contractor and did meet them in New York. 
I came out of Boston, and Green came out of 
Los Angeles; the contractor came out of Salt 
Lake, I believe. While we were sitting in the 
anteroom of the board of directors at their 
principal office in New York, the Equitable 
board received word that [Glen] McCarthy— 
who was in the oil business and built that big 
hotel in Houston, Texas—had reneged on the 
payments of the hotel and had turned the hotel 
back to them. And as a consequence we never 
did get to meet with the board of Equitable 
because they had that big promotion that they 
had furnished the financing for thrown back 
in their lap by McCarthy. 

That was the Shamrock Hotel, wasn’t it? 

Yes. That is the reason that the Caribbean 
was never built and didn’t go forward. 

You were going to have this Caribbean motif, 
a Latin motif? 

Yes. It was designed along those lines. [It] 
had about 300 rooms in it and so forth and so 
on. 



30 


William J. Moore 


And you actually had the plans and everything 
drawn? 

Well, I had the preliminary plans. [The 
plans are deposited in Special collections, 
the James Dickinson Library, University of 
Nevada Las Vegas.] The promotion, getting 
it up to that point, cost me out of my pocket 
probably $65,000 to $70,000, and I just had 
to throw it out the window. 

Well, I read about the Caribbean, it sounded 
like a marvelous idea, and I wondered what 
happened. Now we know. 

You were involved in another enterprise 
that kind of fascinates me and seems a little 
out of character for you. I hear that you 
were responsible for the potato industry in 
Winnemucca. 

I won’t say that I was responsible for it, but 
we had a company called Torginol Industries. 
It was a public company. All the stock was 
gotten together by me. I got out and promoted 
11 people to join me, originally. We made a 
public stock issue—sold the stock in the state 
of Nevada ...sold 2 million shares. 

For what purpose? 

Well, it was general. The SEC [Securities 
Exchange Commission] was concerned. They 
made us quit using the word “investment” due 
to the 1934 law that prohibited investment 
companies doing certain things or certain 
companies being called an investment 
company when in reality they weren’t an 
investment company. So they stopped us 
from doing certain advertising along those 
lines, and we didn’t call it an investment 
company. Originally it was called Western 
Industries, Incorporated, and there was a 
public company called Western Industries. I 


didn’t know it at the time; it just so happened 
that the company was not organized in the 
state of Nevada—didn’t have a license in the 
state of Nevada—and as a consequence I had 
no way of knowing about it. So after we got 
to selling stock I became cognizant that there 
was a public stock company called Western 
Industries, so we had to change the name. We 
were selling a floor covering called Torginol. 
That’s when we changed the name from 
Western Industries to Torginol Industries. 

That explains the name. 

We sold 2 million shares. [The] first, 
probably, 250,000 shares were sold at a dollar. 
Then the balance of the stock was sold at $2 a 
share, and we sold 2 million shares in Nevada 
and started the floor covering business and 
whatnot. 

The name change occurred about the 
time of the potato business. There was a 
little farmer out of Idaho that had come into 
Diamond Valley, which is out of Eureka, 
Nevada. Diamond Valley has got a lot of 
public land in it—that is, land that was owned 
by the government—and the people filed on 
the land under either the Pittman Act or some 
means of filing on the land. They had put in 
farms, drilled wells and planted a certain 
amount of acreage and so forth. Anyway, this 
farmer came out of Idaho and managed to 
either buy or lease 2 or 3 sections of land in 
Diamond Valley, and he had planted russet 
potatoes in Diamond Valley. Well, Diamond 
Valley is a poor area in one respect: it’s rich 
land; there’s water under the land available 
for irrigating and so forth, but it is out of 
Eureka—it’s about 6,600 feet in elevation. 
Doesn’t look it if you look at the map, but it is, 
and as a consequence, many years you plant 
your farm crops and you’ll have them going 
good in the first part of May, and many’s the 



University of Nevada Oral History Program 


31 


time at that altitude they will wind up with 
another storm. As a consequence, it usually 
gets up just about to blooming stage, and here 
comes the storm, and it’ll freeze. 

There went your crops. 

So it wasn’t a good area for that standpoint, 
but the particular year that this fellow planted 
these potatoes in there everything was 
perfect. The weather stayed perfect, and as a 
consequence he grew some of the finest russet 
potatoes you ever saw in your life, sacked 
them and put them in a warehouse up there. 
So we heard about it. Then potatoes were just 
edging up in price. 

I had been involved at one time in leasing, 
planting and harvesting wheat in west Texas 
along with my grandfather. We had 8 sections 
of wheat one year, and we had 12 sections 
another year, and we had 20 some sections 
another year. So the farming business was not 
a new thing to me. 

You weren’t always a city boy in the casinos. 

I knew that [Harry] Fletcher was the head 
mogul or the head of First Western Savings 
and Loan. I felt that under any reasonable 
submittal at all, Mr. Fletcher would be 
interested in promoting the potato business. 
I knew that his family had been involved in 
the potato business, having grown potatoes in 
and around Carson City for years. Very few 
people around here knew it, but my work on 
the Nevada Tax Commission in Carson City 
had acquainted me with several things that a 
lot of people didn’t know. 

So I was sure that we could get this land 
in Diamond Valley for next to nothing—that 
is, lease it. The wells were drilled; they had to 
be drilled in order for them to get the land 
from the government. Most of the wells didn’t 


have any pumps in them, but the land was 
there and had been cleared. That was part 
of obtaining the land from the government: 
they had to clear the land, and it had all been 
plowed and tilled, and in some cases planted. 

Anyway, under the name of Western 
Industries—and I was the president of the 
company—we obtained a lease on this land, 
4 sections. And it was the heart of the whole 
Diamond Valley. We had property out in the 
present airport area; we had property joining 
Houssel’s ranch which we later developed into 
lots and sold the lots. There are big, beautiful 
homes out there on it at the present time. 
That was done under the name of Western 
Industries. 

We had enough property and enough 
holdings that I felt that I could go to Fletcher 
and propose a loan and get the money. So 
before going to Fletcher I proposed it to the 
board of directors: “Take these 4 sections; 
lease them.” I had in writing the lease price, 
which was, you might say, a give-away 
price—$20 an acre. The board of directors 
OK’d it, providing I could obtain the money in 
the form of a loan to buy the machinery—the 
well pumps, the irrigating equipment and so 
forth—and put the crops in. 

I went to Fletcher with a deal. He asked 
me how much money we were going to need, 
and I told him $2 million. “Well,” he said, 
“What do you got as collateral?” I told him 
the various properties that Western Industries 
owned and whatnot. He said, “Well, bring the 
deeds in here and we got the loan.” 

Sol said, “When do you want me to bring 
them in?” 

He said, “Well, you can do it now.” 

To make a long story short, before the 
afternoon was over I had the money. 

We bought the machinery in Sacramento 
[and] moved it in there. The labor in and 
around that country up there had been 



32 


William J. Moore 


working in the mines, but there was plenty 
of labor that knew the farming end of the 
business. So we bought the tractors, bought 
the plows and the disc and the planters and so 
forth and plowed, harrowed and disked those 
2,400 acres. Bought the pumps; had all the 
irrigating equipment up there and whatnot. 

They got into a big donnybrook in 
Western Industries. I later sued the company 
and wanted judgment against the company. 
The directors originally agreed to trade stock 
on the apartment house project [Westchester 
Gardens] for stock of Western Industries. 
Unbeknownst to me the board of directors, 
promoted by a lawyer out of Los Angeles and 
one of the stock salesmen, started holding 
meetings secretly, and, to make a long story 
short, they rescinded their action and refused 
to go forward with the trade even though we 
had the stock, and they tied up the stock in 
transfer. 

Now, this stock was to be exchanged for stock 
in the potato investment? 

No, in Western Industries. In other 
words, the apartment house stock was to be 
traded for Western Industries stock, which 
later became Torginol Industries. So they 
tied it up in transfer, refused to go forward 
with the project, refused to assume control 
of the apartment house, and as one director, 
I couldn’t go forward with. At the same time 
they had rescinded action on this trade, they 
also rescinded their action on going ahead 
with the potato project. 

Do you know why? 

I never have known why. As I say, later 
I sued the company. I got a $1.8 million 
judgment against them, and by the time I got 
the judgment—it took 6 years to get it through 


court—the company was broke. There wasn’t 
any way to collect on my judgment, so it didn’t 
do me much good to have the judgment. 

You had a million dollars on paper. 

That’s right. But a lot of this stuff, like 
the apartment house, I was involved in 
personally. And it broke me, or it bit me awful 
bad towards being broke. But we got that far 
with the potato project. In other words, we 
plowed, harrowed and disked the 2,400 acres. 
We bought all of the irrigating equipment, 
including the pumps for all the wells that had 
been drilled on the property—the irrigating 
pumps and equipment were stored on a lot in 
Eureka, Nevada, which is approximately 20 
miles from the farm in Diamond Valley—and 
the seed potatoes had been bought. We hadn’t 
taken delivery of same. They’d been bought 
in Bakersfield, California, from a firm. Two 
brothers organized this firm; their name is 
Hawkins. They dealed in seed potatoes, and 
we had bought the seed potatoes from them 
but hadn’t taken delivery. They wouldn’t 
deliver the seed potatoes without being paid 
for them the day they delivered, and naturally 
First Western had received notification of the 
action, and they weren’t inclined to turn loose 
of the money. 

[laughter] You were just between a rock and a 
hard spot, weren’t you? 

I was between a rock and a hard spot. But 
during this time we hired... I say hired; we 
didn’t have to pay anything for it—they did 
it for nothing. The University of California 
at Davis, which is essentially the agricultural 
end of the University of California, did all the 
testing of the soil, the water, the potatoes and 
so forth, and had written a complete report— 
must be that thick [gestures]. 



University of Nevada Oral History Program 


33 


About an inch and a half. 

You’ve never seen such complete 
agricultural engineering in your life. And they 
had agreed to send a professor and a certain 
number of their students to supervise the 
planting and the watering and the amount of 
water and the type of fertilizer and the amount 
of fertilizer and so forth. They agreed to put 
these people in there without one quarter 
on the part of anybody connected with the 
company, just as a means of furthering the 
education of the students out of the University 
of California. So we had a lot of help. I had 
gone so far as to sell to the navy and to the 
army all the potatoes out of this 2,400 acres. 

You had sold the potatoes before they were 
planted? 

Yes, and had a commitment out of the 
army and the navy. I didn’t think that we 
wanted to go through with it, but I had them 
sold for $4 a hundred, which was a hell of a 
price then. Today it wouldn’t be such a good 
price, but then it was a terrific price. The 
reason that we didn’t think that we wanted to 
go through with it, or at least I didn’t think we 
wanted to go through with it, was the fact that 
it became obvious that those potatoes were 
going up in price in excess of $4 a hundred. To 
be perfectly frank, the U.S. number ones went 
to $12.75 before that summer was over with, 
and we would have been able to get an average 
of around $8 a hundred for these potatoes had 
we gone ahead with the project. Naturally we 
wouldn’t have wanted to go forward with the 
$4 commitment...that’s all that the army and 
the navy would agree to pay for the potatoes. 

It was an open-end contract; we could 
either deliver them at $4 a hundred, or tell 
them that we wouldn’t deliver them. So, we 
didn’t have to go forward with the contract 


if we didn’t want to, which was an ideal 
contract for us or for Western Industry. As 
it turned out, had they not rescinded their 
action on the deal, the weather was such 
that it wouldn’t have given us any trouble. 
We had so much professional help that you 
couldn’t have helped but grown the potatoes, 
and we could’ve netted after income tax and 
everything approximately $2 million on that 
2,400 acres and taken the company completely 
out of debts of all kinds and descriptions. But, 
of course, your hindsight’s always better than 
your foresight, and I guess the directors didn’t 
think they knew this at the time. I thought 
I knew it, but I couldn’t prove it to them 
because, naturally, it hadn’t been done. 

Anyway, that’s what got the interest 
started. Some of the people involved later 
got over into around Winnemucca, where 
the land is the same quality as in Diamond 
Valley— U.S. number one soil—but the 
altitude is some 3,500 to 4,200 feet and not 
6,600 feet. 

That makes a great deal of difference. 

Later, one of these people involved 
took 600 acres over there and planted and 
harvested russet potatoes of f of his 600 
acres, and he had the same beautiful potatoes 
that were grown in Diamond Valley. In 
other words, the potato is greater in mass 
and density than any potato that’s ever 
been produced even in Idaho, and Idaho’s 
producing damn fine russet potatoes. These 
out of Diamond Valley that we had tested 
were far in excess of any potatoes that had 
been grown in Idaho, and the potatoes out 
of Winnemucca have been just as good as 
the ones that were grown in Diamond Valley. 
So eventually, in my opinion, we’ll have a 
terrific industry in this state of growing russet 
potatoes in some of these valleys. 



34 


William J. Moore 


But that’s how I got involved in the potato 
business. First Western didn’t lose any money 
on it, but it cost Western Industries a fortune 
backing out of all these contracts. And I, for 
the life of me, will never, never understand 
why it was done. 

You were on the board. 

I was on the board. I was the president of 
the board of directors. 

But they operated behind your back? 

Yes. 

Well, that certainly was a disappointment 
because I’m sure you regarded some of these 
people as friends. 

Longtime friends. 

Yes. The business world is pretty cutthroat, 
isn’t it? 

Yes, it is. But it had happened to me before, 
and I presume if I live another 15 years it’ll 
probably happen again. 

You mentioned in passing a while ago having 
been in Carson City in conjunction with your 
work in the gaming commission. It wasn’t the 
gaming commission then. Do you want to go 
into that? 

Well, Ben Siegel, known as Bugs Siegel—I 
never called him that; he was Ben Siegel 
as far as I was concerned— had been, by 
reputation, a part of Murder, Incorporated. 
A number of articles [were] written about he 
and people associated with him. [He] started 
having trouble in the gambling business from 
the standpoint of the operation of the race 


books and who controlled the race wires or 
the information—controlled the race books. 
Siegel came in here out of the East and had 
been sent in here to sit on the race wire in the 
state. Of course, originally, there wasn’t much 
business; there weren’t too many operators 
that wanted into the betting end of horse 
racing. So, as a consequence, for years they 
operated here and caused no trouble. 

He was sent in here when it became 
obvious that the town was progressing, that 
more and more establishments were being 
built, that more and more hotels had been 
built and were to be built. He was sent in here 
to control the race wire and control who got 
it and who didn’t get it and so forth and so 
on. It became obvious when that fight started 
developing: people that had had the race wire 
for years all of a sudden could not get the race 
wire, and people that nobody had ever heard 
of wound up with the race wire [with] Siegel 
calling the shots. It became obvious to those 
of us who had been in business here in town 
that, if somebody didn’t get control of this 
business, sooner or later there was going to 
be no business. 

It was being controlled by the county 
commission or the city commission and/or 
the sheriff, and the licensing was handled in 
a very loose-shod manner. They’d go to the 
sheriff and say, “I’m going to build a hotel out 
here. I’m going to build a gambling casino, 
and I’m going to need a license.” And in many 
parts of the state the sheriff would say, “Well, 
when I have certain monies cross my hands, 
why, you’ll have the license. 

They actually said that? 

Well, it was going on all over the state. 
We knew it was going on, but it wasn’t any 
particular concern...had never given any 
appreciable trouble. 



University of Nevada Oral History Program 


35 


It became obvious that people came in that 
didn’t deserve to be here, and what caused 
them to come was our efforts in promoting 
the town and promoting the area and so 
forth. Naturally they were in a position, due 
to their operations in the East, to be able to 
come with monies that other people couldn’t 
come with—cash money We knew that if 
the sheriff hadn’t accepted it, he was going to 
start accepting, and instead of being $25,000 
it would be $100,000 and then it would get up 
to 2, and it would finally get to where those 
were the only people that were going to be in 
the business. 

I had gotten the operators together here 
[and] presented what I considered was the 
problem. We had another problem in that 
every session of the legislature we were being 
taxed, taxed, taxed, and the legislature prior 
to this wrote a tax bill, and they were going 
to tax us 10 percent of the gross. Well, most 
businesses—and the gambling business, if 
it’s operated on the square—cannot stand 
10 percent of the gross without any other 
expenses out against it. 

That’s a big slice off of the top. 

That’s a big slice off of the top, and where 
you’ve got to promote the business—you’ve 
got to hire the entertainment and pay for it in 
order to get the people in here, and promote 
them to drive from 300 to 500 miles or ride an 
airplane from 300 to 500 miles and more—you 
cannot afford 10 percent of the gross. It will 
place it to where you’re not making any money. 
So I had appeared in Carson City as a lobbyist, 
so to speak, for the other operators, and with 
facts and figures and so forth. We had never 
taken any money off of the top. If you’re giving 
10 percent of the true gross, that’s one thing; 
if you’re giving 10 percent of what you say the 
gross is, why, that’s something else. 


Depending on which set of books you look at. 

That’s right. 

We had gotten the bill pulled down within 
reason and so forth and the tax set within 
reason in the legislature the prior year period. 
So when we started having this obvious 
trouble from the standpoint of Siegel and/or 
others having to do with the race wire, I got 
the other operators together, presented the 
problem, and they agreed to put up certain 
monies for, you might say, lobbying for me 
to hire lawyers if necessary and so forth. 

I’d gone and presented the problem to the 
governor of the state, who was Vail Pittman at 
the time, and told him that I felt that there was 
going to have to be a means set up to control 
this business and to control the licensing of 
same, and it was going to have to be handled 
by some means of state government and some 
committee of the state government that in no 
way would be interested in the payoff of any 
kind. I told him at the time I could figure only 
one such board in the state could control such 
a thing, and no member such board, in my 
opinion, would be interested in a payoff. They 
already had all the money they could possibly 
ever spend, and there was no reason for them 
to want any payoff. He asked me what board 
I felt that was, and I told him the Nevada Tax 
Commission. 

The members on the Tax Commission 
[were all wealthy]. One of them owned a 
fourth of the land up at Lake Tahoe. His father 
had gotten it before him—came in here in 
a covered wagon. One of the people out of 
Elko owned, by his own admission and that 
of others, some 30,000 head of cattle—cattle, 
sheep and animals—owned tremendous 
ranches. Another one on the board owned 
approximately 8 big ranches and owned 2 
hotels. Another one on the board had for 
years operated and owned the Ford franchise 



36 


William J. Moore 


in Reno and surrounding territory: Reno, 
Sparks, so forth. He had made several million 
dollars out of the business. He had used that to 
go into ranches, and I personally had steered 
him into one wherein he agreed to pay for 
6,000 head of cattle and wound up getting 
12,000 head. Nobody had bothered to count 
them for years, even including the Nevada 
Tax Commission! [laughter] 

Well, that was a nice trick. 

But anyway, these people didn’t need the 
money, and I didn’t feel that they would be 
subject to a buy-off... and would be insulted 
by such an approach. Well, the governor was 
very jumpy about it. He didn’t know whether 
these people would be interested, and he 
wasn’t sure he could get it in there, but he 
would entertain the notion and go forward 
with the deal providing I could get [it] out 
of the attorney general, who happened to be 
Bible at the time. 

Alan Bible. 

Yes. I could get an opinion out of him 
that the Nevada Tax Commission had the 
authority to do such a thing. So I went to 
Bible and explained the whole situation and 
told him the reason behind it, and Bible said, 
“Well, what do you want me to do?” 

I said, “Well, if you feel that it’s within 
reason for the Nevada Tax Commission to 
take on the supervision of the gambling 
business in the state, within reason for them to 
take on the licensing of the various gambling 
establishments, then I want you to write a 
letter to the governor and/or the Nevada Tax 
Commission so saying.” 

“I’ll write the letter; when do you want it?” 

I said, “I want it tomorrow morning.” He 
wrote the letter, and I said, “I don’t want to 


deliver it. I want you to either deliver it, or I 
want you to mail it out.” 

He said, “I’ll deliver it to the governor.” 
He did. 

The governor called me in and said, “I’ve 
got the letter, so we’ll present it to the Tax 
Commission.” He said, “I would like for you 
to appear before the Tax Commission and 
explain the same reasons that you gave to me. 
You being an operator, you must have a reason 
for bringing it.” 

I said, “Yes.” 

He said, “Our next meeting is at such-and- 
such a time, and would you be there?” 

I said, “Yes, I’ll be there.” I did appear 
before the Nevada Tax Commission. I did 
present my reasons for wanting them to take 
over the issuance of the gambling licenses and 
control the gambling in the state. 

Part of that time, there hadn’t been any 
licensing, really, had there? 

Yes, the licensing was handled by the 
individual county commissions and city 
commissions along with the sheriff of the 
respective county. 

But each one of them had their own criteria. 

That’s right. There was no overall interest 
in the business as far as on a state level. 

But when the mob begins to be interested and 
the industry’s growing, then you have to be 
careful, don’t you? 

You had to be careful. They asked many 
a question. One of the members of the Tax 
Commission at the time, a man by the name 
of Wallace Parks, was a director of the First 
National Bank and was a rancher by trade. 
[He] owned a number of acres in the Lake 



University of Nevada Oral History Program 


37 


Tahoe general area and has since built a hotel 
on some of the property owned by he and his 
family He seemed to be the most interested 
out of the whole group of commissioners. 
He asked the most questions...other than the 
governor. 

The governor and Mr. Parks both stated 
that they felt that it the Tax Commission 
took over the task of licensing the gambling 
operators in the state, took over the task 
of supervising the industry and keeping it 
honest—or as honest as it was possible to 
keep it—that it was going to be necessary 
to have somebody on the Nevada Tax 
Commission representing the business that 
had an interest in the business and could 
give the other commissioners certain inside 
information into the business so that they 
wouldn’t make too many mistakes in trying 
to establish their control over the industry. 
I said, “Well, I think you’ve got a good idea 
there, and I agree with you. I think that it 
would be better if you had somebody on the 
commission. 

So before I left the room, the governor, 
Vail Pittman, including Mr. Parks and some 
of the other commissioners, asked if I were 
appointed to the commission if I would accept 
the appointment. I said, “I would rather not, 
but if you would insist on it, and if it is the 
only way that I can get the Tax Commission 
to assume the obligation of the supervision of 
the industry, then I will of necessity have to 
tell you that I wilt accept if appointed.” 

Mr. Parks, who was very vocal on the 
matter, stated that only under the condition 
that I did accept would he be interested in 
assuming the obligation. So the governor 
agreed with him and stated that he felt the 
same way, also. So with that, that broke up 
the meeting. Later, I was appointed to the 
commission when there was a vacancy on the 
commission. 1 


The time I presented this was during the 
session of the legislature, so certain bills were 
introduced in the legislature that made it 
possible for the Tax Commission to assume 
the obligation or the supervision on the 
issuing of licenses and so forth. And certain 
bills were passed and so forth that essentially 
took the governor off the hot seat for having 
stated that the commission was going to take 
over the supervision of the industry and did 
so on the basis of taxes. In other words, if 
they were going to ask the industry to pay 
more and more taxes, then the commission 
was going to have to know more about the 
industry and was going to have to enter into 
it and know what they were taxing and what 
they weren’t taxing and what the industry was 
doing. 

That would also allow them to know who the 
leaders were. 

This is true. It would also allow certain 
supervision over the taxes from not allowing 
bills to be proposes that were absolutely 
ridiculous and impossible to live up to. 

There was a commissioner on there 
representing railroads, and I do not remember 
now which commissioner did represent 
railroads, but there was one on there. 

That’s on the Tax Commission? 

Yes, and he was very vocal in wanting 
somebody out of the industry on the 
commission because he stated at the time 
that the railroads had for years been accused 
of having their own way, and he felt that if 
the gambling industry was represented that 
it would take part of the heat away from the 
railroads. 

Relieving them of some of the tax burden ? 



38 


William J. Moore 


That’s right. He was right. So anyway, that 
is the start of the supervision of the gambling 
industry in the state of Nevada. 

How long did you serve on the Tax Commission? 

I served until my time ran out, and I 
believe it was in 1949 when my time ran out. 

Did you enjoy that work? 

Yes, I did. It allowed me to meet people 
in the state that I’d have no way of ordinarily 
meeting and allowed me to know more about 
the whole state and what went on in the state. 

You traveled a great deal? 

All over the state. We had meetings in Carson 
City at least once a month; sometimes here, but 
mostly in Carson City. Sometimes in Reno, but 
mostly all the meetings were at that time held in 
Carson City. Recently they’ve been held here, in 
Carson, in Reno, in Elko and so forth. 

Do you remember when the gambling 
commission [Nevada Gaming Commission] 
per se was set up? 

It was after I left the Nevada Tax 
Commission. 

It was a result, wasn’t it, of the gaming industry 
growing so large? 

It became impossible for the Nevada Tax 
Commission to supervise because of the 
number of people that were trying to enter 
the business, and that’s the reason that the 
other branch of it was created. 

Were there other people like yourself as concerned 
about the direction that gaming was taking? 


Yes, there were quite a number. 

Can you mention some of them? 

Well, I would say practically every 
operator in the state was interested, even Mr. 
[Gus] Greenbaum, who was the president of 
the Flamingo organization. 

So the industry wanted to have itself regulated? 

In tact, they told me that—all over the 
United States—anytime it was not sufficiently 
regulated it was eventually voted down. And 
as a consequence, they were as interested in 
having the controls as the outsiders. 

Yes. They had to be as pure as Caesar’s wife, 
right? 

Yes. They had to live up to what the church 
group expected of them. That’s the way they 
felt about it. 

And so regulation would do that and ultimately 
get rid of the mob. 

Maybe not ultimately get rid of the mob 
as such, but it would place some control over 
what was being done and what wasn’t being 
done, and what was being allowed and what 
was not being allowed. Get a group of people 
together, and if we would build the outside of 
the structure for a casino, bar and restaurant 
in conjunction with the motel. He would take 
a lease on the structure at this point and cause 
the interior to be put in along this theme of the 
Showboat for a casino, bar and restaurant. We 
tentatively made a deal with him— Joe Kelly, 
who’s now president of the Showboat operation. 
And he brought 2 people in with him. 

Who were they? 



University of Nevada Oral History Program 


39 


Both of them were in the used car 
business here in Las Vegas at the time. I do 
not remember their names; however, their 
names are in the early promotion advertising 
and, I’m sure, can be gotten together. They, 
in turn, made a deal with a group out of the 
Desert Inn, and they had the interior designed 
by studio designers and architects. I don’t 
know that there was an actual architect in the 
group, but they had to have an architect sign 
the original documents. What arrangement 
was made along those lines, I do not know, 
but they did have the studio designers. 

What do you mean, studio designers? 

Well, every one of the major picture 
studios in Hollywood and the Los Angeles 
general area all had [design] departments. 
These designers have got a complete library— 
a very extensive library—of pictures and 
drawings and blueprints and so forth and 
so on; it’s a very elaborate filing system, and 
these designers design these sets for the 
motion pictures. They happened to catch the 
designers on a strike on the studios, which 
allowed them the use of the whole group of 
them. As a consequence, they probably got 
more authentic work done quicker than they 
would have gotten done had this strike not 
been going on. 

That was a lucky break. 

Yes. But anyway, they designed the 
complete interior, including the casino, the 
bar, the restaurant, the bingo parlor and so 
forth. And, naturally, [they] kept submitting 
it to me for approval before they were allowed 
to go ahead and build. They did go ahead and 
build and finished up and opened, naturally, at 
the same time we opened the room part of the 
hotel. They didn’t want to operate [all] of this 


structure. [They] were principally interested 
in the gambling end of the operation. So the 
lease was later revised, and we—that is, the 
hotel corporation—operated the bar and the 
restaurant and the room section, and they 
essentially operated the gambling end of the 
business. 

That was in about 1961? 

Nineteen sixty-one was when I sold out, 
but we opened the structure in 1954. 

The day before the opening you had a big 
rainstorm here, didn’t you? 

Yes, we did. 

I read a newspaper account that said there 
were several inches of rain out there and that 
the Showboat indeed looked like a Showboat 
for a short time! 

That was the most water I’ve ever seen in 
the valley. If we ever get that type of a rain 
again, there’s going to be a lot of trouble in 
Las Vegas because they closed up 

And without the volume you don’t do 
any good. It’s like for years they operated the 
restaurant at the El Cortez, and Bob Baskin 
didn’t make any money with it because he 
didn’t seat any people. So when we remodeled 
the El Cortez we put in a restaurant that was 
4 times as big as anything they’d ever had in 
there. Mr. Baskin, who moved out when we 
moved in, personally told me that we were 
making the biggest mistake we’d ever made 
in our lives; there was no way that that hotel 
could ever accommodate that number of seats 
in a restaurant. Well, as a consequence we not 
only did accommodate the number of seats, 
but we had people waiting as high as 4 hours 



40 


William J. Moore 


in order to get into the seats in order to get 
something to eat at the hotel. Instead of doing 
a volume of $27,000 a month that he’d been 
doing, we started doing a volume of $88,000, 
$102,000, $120,000. So naturally we had no 
waste; we had no throwaway out the back 
door. As a consequence we started making 
money in the restaurant that had never made 
money in the history of the operation. 

Did Baskin stay in town? 

Yes. He’s dead now. 

Well, we got into this discussion talking about 
the chamber and.... 

So I felt that the reason I got interested 
in the chamber is that I was involved in 
promotions all over the United States in the 
resort business, and I knew that if we got Las 
Vegas up where it should be and developed 
Las Vegas where it should go, that we were 
going to have to put in innumerable hours on 
end promoting. And the only people that can 
promote it as such is a chamber of commerce. 
It’s got to be everybody in the community 
doing it, not just a few people. 

There was no chamber in Las Vegas, then? 

There had always been a chamber, but it 
had always been run by a few individuals in 
town, and nobody else would spend an hour 
or a day trying to help, too. It was a chamber 
in the name only. It did not have the interest 
of the people or the town at heart. Frankly, 
it was something to provide a job for 1 or 2 
individuals, but essentially that’s about it. In 
other words, keep track of a few businesses and 
how many restaurants there were, and how 
many hotel rooms there were and so forth and 
so on. Just typical organizations, so to speak. 


So that was my interest in the chamber. 
I had had to have a similar interest all over 
the country. I helped organize a chamber in 
Hobbs, New Mexico; I helped to organize 
one in Wink, Texas; I helped organize one in 
Seminole, Oklahoma, when I was, you might 
say, nothing but a kid. I was still in school. I 
was induced to do these things by my uncles 
who felt I had the ability to do it and the 
education to do it and the motivation. 

Well, how did you sort of build afire under the 
chamber here? 

It was done by building a fire under the 
individuals. One of the greatest people that 
ever existed for the town was a fellow by the 
name of Max Kelch. He is now passed away; 
he owned a radio station. 

Do you know what station? 

Well, KENO. He originally came in here 
promoting the station. He had to do a lot 
of promoting in order to exist as a radio 
operator, and he was a very smart individual, 
highly educated in both the mechanics and/ 
or public speaking. He knew the fiscal end 
of business operations better than any living 
human I ever knew. He could give a better 
address than the average person I’ve ever run 
into and do it extemporaneously. He didn’t 
have to have 9 million notes—he’d just stand 
up and start talking. So we motivated him, 
and there was a reason for his motivation; 
we felt that if he could get all this stuff done 
and build it up, why, it was a buildup for 
the radio business and for, eventually, the 
television business. He made a fortune off of 
it here in Las Vegas. He built a home out in 
Rancho Circle. His wife still lives there. They 
had 2 fine youngsters who are grown up and 
married locally. 



University of Nevada Oral History Program 


41 


Didn’t you become an officer in the Chamber 
of Commerce? 

Oh, yes. I was the president of the chamber 
at one time. 

Max Kelch had preceded you as president. 

He did. He served 2 terms as president of 
the chamber. I think he probably could serve 
forever as the president of the chamber had 
he wished to, but he felt that others ought to 
occupy the seat, which is rightly so. 

What did you and Max Kelch do to get people 
enthusiastic? 

We got to holding meetings, and we 
had various talkers at these meetings. We 
promoted the Union Pacific Railroad. It had 
never been promoted before. 

How do you mean you promoted it? 

Well, the Union Pacific came through 
here; Las Vegas was an important cog on their 
railroad. They were hauling tons and tons 
of freight and passengers through here. The 
then president [probably George Ashby] of 
the Union Pacific Railroad lived in Las Vegas. 
Nobody had ever bothered to contact him, but 
we did contact him. He made the publicity 
department of the Union Pacific Railroad 
available to the chamber. He made personnel 
that they had hired and paid available to the 
chamber. 

They were already spending money 
promoting the area, promoting their railroad, 
promoting the route and so forth. We felt 
that they would be interested in additional 
promotion that would help their railroad, 
and we felt that if Las Vegas got built up and 
they got to bringing many more customers 


in here, that would promote their railroad 
and whatnot. As a consequence they were 
very interested, and they made all of the stuff 
available. They didn’t charge us one cent. They 
did a lot of printing for us. They had a Union 
Pacific magazine, and they published many 
an article in that magazine about the area and 
things that went on. 

You just had an untapped resource there that 
you’d never used. 

That’s right...never been used. They owned 
the water company in the town, and we felt it 
to their advantage and the advantage of the 
town if somebody besides the Union Pacific 
owned the water company. We felt that it 
ought to be owned publicly, and we told him 
so. He agreed with us, and the water company 
was later turned over and made a part of the 
public entity—the [Las Vegas] Valley Water 
District. 

Without water you cannot promote an 
area. You must have water. The land is here. 
It couldn’t run off, but, naturally, the Union 
Pacific Railroad wasn’t interested in spending 
a small fortune., .they had all the water they 
could use. They weren’t going to develop it, 
so when we approached the subject, they 
were very interested and started helping us 
write the bills and take the thing over. So 
that got the water available publicly, and as a 
consequence had been able to go to the lake 
and bring in one big pipe line. Now they’re in 
the process of bringing in a second big pipe 
line, and they’re still going to have to have 
more water in spite of that. But without that 
water this area could have never grown the 
way it has. It won’t grow in the future unless 
they water it. 

That was a good move. What else did you and 
Kelch do? 



42 


William J. Moore 


Well, we felt that not enough work had 
ever been done in the past [on] the roads; 
the roads had never been properly promoted. 
We were constantly looking on the fact that 
if they improved the roads out of California 
in towards Nevada that they were helping 
Nevada...helping Las Vegas. It became 
necessary to point out to the Los Angeles 
authorities that, yes, they were helping 
Nevada, but they were also helping California. 
They were helping California a lot more than 
they were helping Nevada in that they were 
making it easier for the people to get to them. 

They were, after all, the original 
promoters—not Nevada. They needed more 
and more people to take over the land that had 
been promoted originally as apple, orange and 
grapefruit orchards. They used to run train 
after train after train on the Southern Pacific, 
on the Santa Fe, on the Union Pacific bringing 
trainloads of people out of the Midwest into 
California to take over those orchards—to 
buy the land. By improving the roads it was 
just adding to their original promotions that 
they had allowed to go begging for a number 
of years. 

Help them develop their own country, then? 

Yes, and they agreed with us and started 
improving the roads and started making the 
appropriations and started working with the 
appropriations. 

How did you do this? Did you go directly to 
other chambers of commerce in California? 

We went to the chambers in California. 
We went to the Los Angeles Chamber of 
Commerce, which in turn has the funnel to 
the individual chamber of commerces in the 
small individual communities. They could go 
to the legislature. We couldn’t. 


Then we originally set up what we called 
the Live Wire Fund. We got, you might say, the 
easy people, the people that knew the value 
of promotion and that would agree to make 
these contributions, or the ones that had made 
the contributions in the past. We got them 
to agree to put it in writing that they would 
contribute so much money a year towards the 
Live Wire Fund...publishing and advertising 
firms. 

Did you have a chamber publication, or did 
you have releases for the newspapers and that 
kind of stuff? 

No, we had somebody in charge of the 
Live Wire Fund that it was their duty to keep 
the newspapers and whatnot supplied with 
information and so forth. 

So you had the individual companies make 
pledges every year. 

They made pledges, and we got it set up. 
We had to have something, so we picked the 
Live Wire Fund. We went through Mr. Abe 
Miller, as an illustration. Mr. Miller was a 
highly conservative man, and had a highly 
conservative son, and they owned the Sal 
Sagev Hotel. Well, at one time he owned one 
of the banks in the area. When they got to 
criticizing him too much over some action 
on the city Commission—he was on the city 
commission—why, he then just resigned from 
the city commission and closed the bank. He 
wrote all the people and told them to come 
get their money. 

In a little snit over some criticism? He was 
certainly an independent person, wasn’t he? 

Yes, he was independent. Sol went to Mr. 
Miller, and I said, “Miller, here’s what we’ve 



University of Nevada Oral History Program 


43 


done. We’ve gotten together approximately 
$50,000 and probably off of this 50 you’ll get 
another 50 rather easily, but we want you on 
this group of Live Wire contributors.” Oh, no 
way! He wasn’t going to put up any money for 
such things as the Chamber of Commerce. 
And I said, “Well, you interested in making 
money?” 

“Oh, yes. 

I said, “I can show you how you can make 
4 times the money you’ve ever made just by 
changing the operation on your hotel, but 
you’re going to have to get the people in here 
in order to sell them the rooms and the food 
and the booze. Unless you get them in here 
you’ll never make the money.” 

“Well, how do I get them in here?” 

I said, “By joining the rest of us and 
promoting them in, and here’s what we’re 
going to do.” 

“Well, all right, if that’s what you’re going 
to do, then I’ll put up the money.” 

So he put up $ 1,000. He just turned around 
at his desk and wrote a check and handed me 
the check for $1,000 made payable to the Live 
Wire, and said, “There’s more behind that. You 
prove to me that you’re going to do it.” 

Well, the old-timers around here just 
swore that there was no way that he could have 
done that. I said, “There’s the man’s check.” 

He was a hard nut to crack. They all knew that, 
[laughter] 

That’s right. So we went to person after 
person. 

Were there many people like that? 

Oh, there was a lot of them. [There was] 
a man, Ed Clark, that owned the original 
First State Bank that later became the Bank 
of Nevada. He called me down there—sent 


for me when we started building the hotel. 
No way did he want that hotel built in here. 

You mean the Last Frontier? 

Yes! He didn’t want it. 

Why? 

Just said they’d gotten along pretty good 
the way they were going and just didn’t need 
it. 

You mean he actually called you down to the 
office and verbalized that? 

Yes! I said, “Well, you just do as you please, 
but we’re going to build it whether you like it 
or not.” 

“Well,” he said, “I happen to be the head 
of the Democratic party in the state, and I am 
here to tell you that with this war going and 
whatnot I’m just going to stop you.” 

I said, “Well, you just grab a deep seat and 
a tight rein because you’re not going to stop 
me. 

“Well, we’ll see,” [he said]. So later he 
called me and he said, “My father always told 
me, ‘if you can’t whip ’em, join ’em,’ and I got 
to join you.” 

He was big enough to admit he had made a 
mistake. 

So he started contributing. Well, they 
just said it’s impossible. I said, “There’s the 
man’s check and it’s coming in here every 
month.” 

Then we went to Cyril Wengert. He was 
the manager of the First National Bank. “We 
want your money, Cyril.” 

Well, it just couldn’t be. The bank couldn’t 
put up that kind of money. 



44 


William J. Moore 


I said, “I happen to know that they can, 
and if you don’t want to contact them, I’m 
going to.” 

“Well, no, let me do it,” he said, “Give me 
the information,” which I had all written up 
by then. 

So we handed it to him and gave him a 
week, and said, “Either you contact the board, 
get something done about it, or we’re going to 
them ourselves.” 

“Oh, I’ll contact them,” [he said]. 

So he did, and I got a call out of Reno 
from the president of the First National. He 
said, “No, Mr. Moore, we just can’t put up this 
money. We’d be expected to do it in Reno, Las 
Vegas and Elko.” 

I said, “Yes, you should be doing it in every 
one of those places you’re talking about.” 

“Well,” he finally said, “I’ll be down there 
next week, and I’ll talk to you.” He finally did 
agree to put up, I think, $10,000 to start with, 
and then later agreed that they would do so 
much money a month, and then they did it 
for years. 

Did you have to pay for a membership at that 
time? 

Yes. It wasn’t any part of the membership. 
It didn’t have anything to do with the 
membership. This was a fund to promote this 
town—bring people in here— [and] promote 
the resort industry. 

Later I contacted Cyril Wengert, and I 
said, “Cyril, it seems you’ve done pretty good.” 

He said, “Last week I sold that piece of 
property I had up there on Fremont Street. I 
got more money than I thought I ever would 
see in my whole lifetime out of that piece of 
property. 

I said, “Yes, let me tell you something— 
you just asked about a fourth of what it was 
worth.” 


Well, he liked to fainted. He just couldn’t 
believe that I would think that, and I sat down 
there and attempted to prove it to him. 

Later he called me into the bank one day and 
said, “Yes, I agree. I could’ve gotten 4 times 
what I did get, and I made a mistake.”Later 
on he didn’t make many mistakes, and he 
made a lot of money here in real estate that 
he owned. 

[laughter] How many terms did you serve in 
the chamber? 

I think I served 2 terms. Max Kelch served 

2 . 

Yes. You 2 got the chamber launched in the 
direction of promotion and exploitation of what 
we had here. 

The Union Pacific Railroad later came 
in with the idea if we’d set this thing up in a 
little different way, that they would contribute 
some $200,000 to $300,000 a year to the 
fund. We asked them what they were talking 
about, and they wanted it set up in the form 
of a bureau like it was a public entity. So, they 
called it Desert Sea [News Bureau]. I think 
it’s still called the same thing. But, anyway, 
it had tote taken away from Las Vegas, you 
see, to where their contributions would not 
be to Las Vegas or to Reno, but it would be 
to a pub he interest. Then they got away with 
contributing. 

They provided a fellow by the name 
of [Steve] Hannigan for one full year, and 
Hannigan was one of the most expensive 
publicity men in the United States. You 
couldn’t even talk to the man for less than 
$300,000 in the way of a salary. They provided 
him free of charge. He came here to Las 
Vegas, set the whole thing up, told us what 
they wanted, handled the supervision of the 



University of Nevada Oral History Program 


45 


publicity, and set up a complete department 
of pictures. In other words, a newspaper any 
place in the world can write in there and [ask 
for] a picture of the hotel, this hotel or that 
hotel or this area or that area. That department 
is still functioning. 2 

It was to that news bureau, then, that the Union 
Pacific gave its money and not to the chamber. 

And they’re still doing it. As an 
illustration, if Union Pacific gave $300,000 
to the chamber in Las Vegas, then you know 
there where you got the principal office in 
Omaha, Nebraska, they’re going to have to 
give them $300,000. Yet if they appropriated 
$300,000 out of the Union Pacific into the 
Desert Sea News Bureau, then they don’t 
have to give to every news bureau in the 
country. They gave it to a news bureau. 
They wanted a different name, and they 
wanted it disconnected with the Chamber 
of Commerce and didn’t want it in the same 
building, and for years it wasn’t. I don’t know 
whether it is now or not; I haven’t paid any 
attention for the last 10 years. 

But it did enable you to do what you wanted to 
do? You were able to carry out the promotional 
ideas that you had? 

That’s right. We could contribute a certain 
amount of money to the news Bureau, 
and the news bureau could then use it for 
photographs, for hiring of publicity people. In 
advertising they could have plates made up, 
they could have the art work done, they could 
have all this stuff ready so that if it’s needed by 
a newspaper or magazine or whatnot ...bang! 
It’s ready. 

It was an organization to implement your 
promotion? 


That’s right. That’s the way it’s going at 
the present time, and as a consequence the 
chamber was able to get way more than its 
fair share out of the publicity and advertising 
department than if they had attempted to set 
up a fund and then gone and bought as an 
individual. They got help that you couldn’t 
get any other way. 

You’ve seen a lot of changes in Las Vegas. Do 
you care to comment? 

Well, it’s just started. 

You’re an optimist, aren’t you? 

It’ll make more money from now on than 
ever has been made up to now. 

What do you think about the prospect of 
legalized gambling in other states? It’s already 
begun in New Jersey. 

It’ll only help. We’re going to have to keep 
promoting, but I don’t think it’ll hurt. 

Do you think Florida—if it had legalized 
gambling — would be more of a threat than the 
gambling that’s now going on in New Jersey? 

No. I think they’ll take off a lot of money 
in Florida. I don’t believe that it will ever come 
to pass in Florida because I don’t think they 
can ever get rid of the jealousy among the 
operators long enough to get it done. 

I would think that one of the big problems 
in Florida would be the very conservative, 
retired population there that would not vote 
for gaming. I would see that as a real problem. 

The reason they were able to do it in New 
Jersey is that it’s all separated in an entity that 



46 


William J. Moore 


the average person living in New Jersey never 
goes there. It’s always the business. That isn’t 
true in Florida. 

One thing about the Florida weather: it’s 
much more humid than ours, and I would 
think—speaking for myself— a humid weather 
would not attract me, and I would think that 
here, even though it does get hot, it’s a more 
tolerable heat. 

It is. 

Well, at least we agree on that. If we can 
convince other travelers, we have it made. 

If we don’t keep promoting.... 

You think that’s the key to it all? 

That’s right. 



Notes 


1. William Moore was appointed to the 
Nevada Tax Commission in April, 1947. Since 
Mr. Moore was in the gaming business there 
was some skepticism among those who did 
not know him regarding his ability to regulate 
the industry without being self-serving. 
Robbins E. Cahill, in his oral history, made 
the following comment regarding Mr. Moores 
personal integrity: 

I think, personally, that the state of 
Nevada has a debt of gratitude that it owes to 
Bill Moore for what he did, because he did a 
yeoman job of it. I have found out since, as 
I’ve become acquainted in Las Vegas and the 
area, that probably he wasn’t the only one that 
had conceived all of this, [but] he was the 
one that carried it out. He worked on it very 
vigorously, and he was in a very bad position, 
himself, because he was a gaming operator 
himself. And in trying to control other people, 
immediately, of course, it would be pointed 
out that he was trying to keep competition 
out. And I, personally, could guarantee that 


Bill Moore never had that in mind. He had 
the state of Nevada’s interests at heart; he saw 
how big this thing was going to be. He was 
occasionally in that awkward position, but I 
never knew him to act on anything, or suggest 
anything, strictly for his own personal good. 
I think he did a marvelous job in this respect, 
and I don’t think most people realize just how 
important he was to the state of Nevada at 
that particular period. He just—in the Tax 
Commission—just literally fought it out by 
himself. 

2. Steve Hannigan owned a public relations 
company and was employed by the Harriman 
family of the Union Pacific Railroad to 
promote the Sun Valley ski resort in Idaho, 
which was on the railroad line. A one- 
year contract was signed in 1948, and Ken 
Frogley was sent to Las Vegas to become 
the first manager of the Desert Sea News 
Bureau. The contract was not renewed, and 
the news organization set up by Hannigan 
reverted back to the Las Vegas Chamber of 



48 


William J. Moore 


Commerce and was named the Las Vegas 
News Bureau. It remains an adjunct of the 
chamber. The Hannigan agency had national 
prominence and promoted Miami Beach 
and the Indianapolis 500 race. [Information 
from Don Payne, Las Vegas News Bureau, 2 
January 1985.] 



Photographs 



The Last Frontier Hotel, 1945, one of the first 
developments on what was to become the Las Vegas Strip 











50 


William J. Moore 



Guests relaxing beside the swimming pool of the Last Frontier Hotel, 1945. 



Opening night of the Last Frontier Village, 30 September 1950. 




















Photographs 


51 




The Little Church of the West of the Opening of the Carrillo Room, (left to right) 

grounds of the Last Frontier Hotel Joe Schramm, Burt Walsh, Maxine Lewis, 

Bill Moore, Leo Carrillo, Burt King. 


Photographs courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada Las Vegas Library: 
Manis Collection: page 49; page 50 (top); page 51 (right); 

William J. Moore Collection: page 50 (bottom); page 51 (left). 














Original Index: 
For Reference Only 


In order to standardize the design of all UNOHP transcripts for the online database, they have 
been reformatted, a process that was completed in early 2012. This document may therefore differ 
in appearance and pagination from earlier printed versions. Rather than compile entirely new 
indexes for each volume, the UNOHP has made each transcript fully searchable electronically. If 
a previous version of this volume existed, its original index has been appended to this document 
for reference only. A link to the entire catalog can be found online at http://oralhistory.unr.edu/. 



54 


William J. Moore 


A 


F 


Anderson, Andy, 40 
Arizona Club, 12-13 


B 


Baskin, Bob, 81 
Bible, Alan, 73-74 


First Western Savings and Loan, 
62, 65, 68 

Fletcher, Harry, 62, 63-64 
Frogley, Ken, 95 (Note 2) 
Frontier Hotel (Las Vegas), 

41. See also Last Frontier 
Hotel 


Cahlan, Florence Lee, 6 
Caribbean Hotel (Las Vegas), 
58-60 

Carrillo, Leo, 12-13 
Caudill, Robert, 32-33, 40 
Clark, Ed, 88-89 
Coffman, Roscoe, 58 
Connors, Helen, 43 
Corgan, Jack, 5 


Gaming industry, 69-79 

in Florida, 93-94^ in New Jersey, 
93-94 
Gibbs, Mr 

Green, Mr. (a ), 58-59 

Griffith, Heh J., 4 

is or L. C. , 4 
R. E., 1-2, 3, 4, 11- 
19, 21 



Dairy ran<^ 

Ranc 

Deming (New'^-ico) , 1-2 
)esert Sea News Bureau, Las Vegas, 

• t 95 (Note 2) - 
ind Valley (Nevada), 61-63, 

67-68 

Dilbeck, Mr. (architect), 1 

Doby Doc. See Caudill, Robert 

Dude ranch. See Hidden Valley Ranch 


Ham, Art, 35, 55 
Hannigan, Steve, 91-92, 95 
(Note 2) 

Hawkins's firm, 65 
Hidden Valley Ranch, 28-32 
Houssels, J. K., 53 
Hull, Tom, 2, 3, 21, 58 


K 


E 

El Cortez Hotel (Las Vegas), 44, 
81; stock and holders, 52-53 
El Rancho Hotel (Gallup, New 
Mexico), 1, 21 

El Rancho Hotel (Las Vegas), 2-3, 
21 

Equitable Life Insurance Company, 
58-59 


Kaltenborn, Robert, 53 
Kelch, Max, 82-84, 91 
Kelly, Joe, 48-49 
Kerkorian, Kirk, 22 


L 

Last Frontier Hotel (Las Vegas), 

1, 3, 4-44, 53-54; air con¬ 
ditioning, 5-6; Carrillo Room, 
11-13; construction, 5, 6, 7-11; 



Original Index: For Reference Only 


55 


entertainment, 19-22; fire pro¬ 
tection, 6-7; furnishings, 5, 
10-11, 12, 13-16, 23-27; Gay 
Nineties Bar, 13-15; gift shop, 
15; laundry, 27-28; promotion, 
19, 22-27, 80-82; Ramona Room, 
10, 11; services, 16-17, 23-27 
Last Frontier Village (Las Vegas), 
32-41, 56; dress shop, 37-38; 
leather shop, 38; rock shop, 38; 
Silver Slipper, 34-37, 41; Tex¬ 
aco station, 38-41 
Las Vegas Army Air Field- See 
Nellis Air Force Base 
Las Vegas Valley Water District, 

84- 85 

Little Church of the West, 41-44 

Live Wire Fund, 86-90 

Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, 

85- 86 


Potato industry, 60-68 
Promotion, 3-4, 17-19, 79-86, 
93-94; hotel, 19, 22-27, 80- 
82; theater, 3-4, 17-19, 79- 
86, 93-94 


Real estate development, 54-57 
Rupert, A. R., 32 


McCarthy, Glen, 59 
Miles, Mr., 46, 52 
Miller, Abe, 8 


Lr Force Base, 8 
la Chamber of Commerce, 79, 
81-93 

Nevada Gaming Commission, 69, 77 
See also Nevada Tax Commission 
Nevada Tax Commission, 69-78 


sion. 



Searles, Kenny, 

Securities 
60 

Showboatf Hotel (Las Vegas), 44- 
ion of site, 44- 
and holders, 52-53 
, Ben (Bugsy), 69-70 
s, Fanny, 37 
Studio designers, motion picture 
industry, 49-50 


Texaco station, 39-40 
Theater industry, 1, 2, 3-4, 
17-19 

Torginol Industries, 60-61, 64. 
See also Western Industries 
Incorporated 

Trailer Homes Investment Cor¬ 
poration, 55 


0 

Oil drilling, 57 


P 

Pair 0' Dice Club, 12 
Park William S., 55-56; Indian 
collection, 56 
Parks, Wallace, 74-76 
Pittman, Vail, 72-76 
Polk, Harry, 55 


U 

Union Pacific Railroad, 84-85, 
91-93, 95 (Note 2) 

University of California at 
Davis, 66 


W 

War Production Board, 7-10, 28 
Wengert, Cyril, 89-91 
Westchester Gardens, 58, 64-65 



56 


William J. Moore 


Western Industries, Incorporated, 
60-61, 63, 64-65, 67, 68-69. 

See also Torginol Industries 
Winnemucca (Nevada), 67-68 
World War II, 7-10, 23-24, 28 
Wycoff, Jerrie, 43 


Z 


Zick and Sharp, 39, 42-43